Iran appers to be unhappy with the way Twitter is cracking down on fake accounts as the country’s Foreign Minister has alleged that the microblogging site is shutting down accounts of “real” Iranians while letting anti-government bots to thrive.
Addressing Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday said that the accounts of “real” Iranians blocked by Twitter include those of some TV presenters and students, CNET reported.
“Hello @Jack. Twitter has shuttered accounts of real Iranians, (including) TV presenters & students, for supposedly being part of an ‘influence op,'” Zarif wrote in a tweet.
“How about looking at actual bots in Tirana used to prop up ‘regime change’ propaganda spewed out of DC? #YouAreBots,” he went on to say in the same tweet, referencing Albania’s capital.
Facebook and Twitter came under the radar of investigators for their alleged failure to prevent spread of divisive news stories on their platforms in the lead up to the US presidential election in 2016.
The social media giants last month announced they had collectively removed hundreds of inauthentic pages, groups and accounts linked to disinformation campaigns.
With the goal of improving understanding of how foreign influence campings operate on Twitter, the microblogging site has now released massive datasets of accounts linked to potential influence campaigns originating in Russia and Iran.
These large datasets released this week comprise 3,841 accounts affiliated with the Internet Research Agency (IRA), originating in Russia, and 770 other accounts, potentially originating in Iran.
Totalling over 360 gigabytes – including more than 10 million Tweets and more than 2 million images, GIFs, videos, and Periscope broadcasts ?the data store provides a picture of how state-sponsored agencies have used the Twitter platform, technology news website Ars Technica reported on Friday.
IRA allegedly ran information campaigns on several social media platforms to undermine the political process in the 2016 US presidential election.
With Twitter coming under scrutiny for its failure to stop the spread of misinformation during the election, the microblogging site, earlier this year, committed to the US Congress and the public to provide regular updates and information regarding its investigation into foreign interference in political conversations on Twitter.
Since that time, Twitter has shared examples of these types of content posted on Twitter by IRA and provided the public with a direct notice if they interacted with these accounts.
In August this year, Twitter also disclosed details of another attempted influence campaign it identified as potentially located within Iran.
The datasets released this week are aimed at enabling independent academic research and investigation into the nature of foreign influence campaigns, Twitter said.
“We are committed to understanding how bad-faith actors use our services. We will continue to proactively combat nefarious attempts to undermine the integrity of Twitter, while partnering with civil society, government, our industry peers, and researchers to improve our collective understanding of coordinated attempts to interfere in the public conversation,” Twitter said.
A preliminary look at the data by Ars Technica revealed that a common tactic used by the IRA was to create “local news” accounts for major US cities, seeding them with posts linking to local news outlets.
The accounts, such as “Atlanta Online,” “Baltimore Online,” “Baton Rouge Voice,” “Chicago Daily News,” and “Dallas Top News” would also include tweet-length news headlines with no link, the report said.