Twitter Deletes Thousands of Accounts Reportedly Linked to Iranian Government

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Twitter announced this week that it had removed thousands of accounts from its social media platform because it believed the profiles were “associated with - or directly backed by - the Iranian government.”

The Thursday disclosure showed that the social media giant removed 4,779 accounts, which were later categorized into three different sets because their “signals and behaviors” varied.

​The first group, which amounts to 1,666 accounts, was removed because “they tweeted global news content, often with an angle that benefited the diplomatic and geostrategic views of the Iranian state,” a release by Yoel Roth, the head of Twitter’s Site Integrity, reads. He added, “Platform manipulation is a violation of the Twitter Rules.”

Another 248 accounts allegedly originating from Iran were removed from the platform because they “were more directly engaged with discussions related to Israel specifically.” The last set included 2,865 deleted accounts, which were found to have “employed a range of false personas to target conversations about political and social issues in Iran and globally.”

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Additionally, the announcement noted that dozens of other accounts originating from Russia, Spain and Venezuela were removed from the social media site. Those accounts include four profiles with ties to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, 130 accounts linked to the Catalan independence movement and 33 accounts originating from Venezuela that were reportedly “engaging in platform manipulation targeted outside of the country.”

Twitter first began issuing disclosures regarding accounts and content “associated with potential information operations” in October 2018 as a means to be more transparent with information and to stem manipulation on its site. Since then, the social media company has made its datasets available to investigators so that further analysis can be conducted.

“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,” Roth wrote in the Thursday announcement.

“By making this data open and accessible, we seek to empower researchers, journalists, governments, and members of the public to deepen their understanding of critical issues impacting the integrity of public conversation online, particularly around elections.”

“This transparency is core to our mission,” he added.

This latest development comes weeks after it was reported that both Twitter and Facebook deleted so-called “Iran-linked” accounts based off of information from a report by cybersecurity firm and CIA startup FireEye. However, it was later revealed by Roth that Twitter hadn’t actually been provided with said report when it chopped some 2,800 “inauthentic accounts originating in Iran” from its platform.

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