Twitter Takes Down Thousands Of Accounts Linked to Iran

Twitter has removed almost 5,000 accounts it believes are linked to the Iranian government with the aim of manipulating conversations about political and social issues.

The social network has been cracking down on state-backed information operations as part of an effort to clean up its platform of fake news.

In its latest disclosure, Twitter removed more than 1,500 accounts which tweeted nearly two million times with global news content angled to benefit the diplomatic and geostrategic views of the Iranian state.

Another 2,865 accounts originating from Iran were taken down for using false personas to target conversations about political and social issues in Iran and globally, while another 248 accounts were banned for participating in discussions related to Israel specifically.

“We believe that people and organisations with the advantages of institutional power and which consciously abuse our service are not advancing healthy discourse but are actively working to undermine it,” said Yoel Roth, head of site integrity at Twitter.

“Our site integrity team is dedicated to identifying and investigating suspected platform manipulation on Twitter, including potential state-backed activity.”

The company also suspended 130 accounts linked back to Spain, which it discovered were directly associated with the Catalan independence movement, spreading content about the Catalan referendum.

Only four accounts linked to Russia were taken down this time round – down from the 518 Russian accounts it reported back in November – as well as 33 from Venezuela engaging in platform manipulation.

The move comes at a critical time for social networks, as they look to shake off accusations of not doing enough to tackle misinformation and the spread of harmful content, such as terrorism-related posts and hate speech.

Twitter’s legal, policy, and trust and safety lead, Vijaya Gadde, recently admitted that she has “no doubt” that content on Twitter and other social networks could contribute to radicalisation, while revealing that 1.6 million accounts have been taken down related to terrorism.

According to the executive, 90% of terror-related content taken down is detected by Twitter’s own technologies proactively without any users reporting it.