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Twitter issues report on phony accounts, spam after Congress meeting

By
Ed Adamczyk and Sam Howard
Senate intelligence committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., (C), Vice-Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., (L) and Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, sit before a hearing on worldwide threats, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on May 11. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Senate intelligence committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., (C), Vice-Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., (L) and Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, sit before a hearing on worldwide threats, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on May 11. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Social media giant Twitter released a report about manipulative accounts on its platform after the company met with lawmakers Thursday on Capitol Hill.

Twitter's report centered on the possible spread of divisiveness leading up to the 2016 presidential election and follows similar disclosures this month from fellow social media company Facebook.

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The House and Senate intelligence committees are looking into whether Russia-linked bad actors online helped sow divisiveness and spread misinformation online as part of a Kremlin-backed plot to meddle in the 2016 election. The Russia probe is also looking into whether President Donald Trump's campaign colluded with those efforts.

Of the 450 or so "inauthentic" accounts Facebook has shared through its own review, Twitter wrote Thursday, 22 corresponded with accounts on its platform. All have been suspended, the company said.

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Twitter added that it found another 179 associated accounts, but none was registered as an advertiser.

After Twitter's closed-door meeting with Senate staff Thursday, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., criticized Twitter's information as merely a follow-up to what Facebook had already disclosed. Mark Zuckerberg's company is starting to hand over 3,000 advertisements related to Russian targeting of voters to special counsel Robert Mueller's office.

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"The notion that their work was basically derivative, based upon accounts that Facebook had identified, showed [an] enormous lack of understanding from the Twitter team of how serious this issue is, the threat it poses to democratic institutions, and again begs many more questions than they offered," the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee told reporters, including CBS News.

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It didn't cite specific data, but Twitter also noted in its report that Russia and Soviet-associated nations "have been a primary source of automated and spammy content on Twitter for many years."

Twitter's report also highlighted the role of Russia Today, the Kremlin-owned TV news channel, on its social media platform. The company said RT-linked accounts spent $274,100 on promoted tweets last year -- 1,823 of which were pushed by @RT_com, @RT_America and @ActualidadRT and targeted or may have targeted U.S. users.

Warner called Twitter's disclosures "frankly inadequate on every level."

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Twitter said in its report that it will implement new measures to police "spammy or suspicious activity."

"We've been fighting against these issues for years, and as long as there are people trying to manipulate Twitter, we will be working hard to stop them," the company said.

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Facebook, Twitter and Google were invited to open hearings before Congress in November on the investigation of Russia's role in the election.

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