Twitter removed more than four thousand accounts from its platform claiming that the accounts were directly backed by the Iranian Government and spreading false information or misleading facts. In a blog post, it stated
“Thousands of researchers from across the globe have downloaded datasets, which contain more than 30 million Tweets and over 1 terabyte of media, using our archive to conduct their own investigations and to share their insights and independent analysis with the world,”
On June 13, 2019, Twitter announced that it is deleting around 4779 accounts which were divided into three different sets according to their varied behavior and signals.
Around 1,666 accounts fell into this category. The accounts were blocked for tweeting global news content that would eventually be backing the geostrategic and diplomatic views of the Iranian state. Putting in simple words, such tweets vogue for Iran’s cause and supports its views about global politics. Yoel Roth, the head of Twitter’s site integrity stated that manipulation of the platform is a violation of Twitter’s rules.
248 account were the accounts originally operating from Iran. The accounts were actively participating in political discussions specifically related to Israel. Iran and Israel have a strong tussle and leaders from both countries have openly threatened and bashed each other. Here it is funny to note that only Iranian voicing their opinion about Israel were blocked from the platform and not a single account from Israel faced any consequences for misusing the platform or spreading hate speech.
2865 were suspected of being sock puppets, doing the government’s bidding on the platform. These accounts were found to have “employed a range of false personas to target conversations about political and social issues in Iran and globally.”
Accounts suspended in another spree
In an additional update, Twitter reported the removal of dozens of other accounts, this time operating from Russia, Spain, and Venezuela. Four of these accounts were directly connected to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency. 130 accounts voiced their opinion for the Catalan independence movement. Catalonia is seeking independence from Spain. 33 accounts from Venezuela were blocked for engaging in platform manipulation targeted outside of the country. The kind of manipulation was not specified.
Twitter issued its disclosure policy regarding accounts and content associated with “potential information operations” in October 2018. The company stated that transparency is the core of its mission.
The decision of removing the account was based upon information report from cybersecurity firm and CIA startup FireEye. Later, it was disclosed that no such report was submitted by the time Twitter had chopped some 2800 inauthentic accounts originating in Iran.