Twitter removes thousands of accounts linked to Iran government

June 18, 2019 | Media
Nearly 4,800 accounts were taken down by microblogging platform to prevent election interference and misinformation

Since October 2018, Twitter has been publishing transparency reports on its investigations into state-backed information operations, releasing datasets on more than 30m tweets. The latest report discloses that thousands of accounts originating in Iran have been suspended.

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

More than 1,600 removed accounts sent out nearly 2m tweets sharing “global news content, often with an angle that benefited the diplomatic and geostrategic views of the Iranian state”, the report said.

In addition, Twitter suspended 248 accounts that appeared to be tied to the Iranian government and engaged in public discussions relating to Israel. The remaining 2,865 accounts “employed a range of false personas to target conversations about political and social issues in Iran and globally”.

In addition to information about Iranian accounts, Twitter’s most recent numbers showed it removed four accounts from Russia as part of its investigation into the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA), a center of state actors in St Petersburg that sent out more than 10m tweets attempting to influence US politics between 2013 and 2018.

It also removed 33 accounts in Venezuela that were connected to 764 previously removed accounts that were associated with the Russian Internet Research Agency, but were operated in Venezuela.

Some 130 accounts that were included in the report originated in Spain and spread misinformation related to the referendum on Catalan independence.

Twitter has been ramping up its detection and actions against state-backed misinformation campaigns ahead of the 2020 elections after an investigation from the US government determined there was a “systematic” Russian campaign to undermine its democratic process.