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    Twitter Data Release: There’s Really a Storm in a Teacup Over This - Scholar

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    Twitter has shared an archive of material that could be linked to alleged information campaigns by Russia and Iran. The data reveals over 3,800 Twitter accounts that reportedly originated in Russia and 770 accounts that purportedly originated in Iran.

    This comes after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified before Congress about foreign interference in US elections.

    Sputnik has talked about talked about Twitter's release of data with Gilbert Doctorow, an independent political analyst based in Brussels.

    Sputnik: How responsible is Twitter for the fact that its platform is being used by what it calls trolls and bots?

    Gilbert Doctorow: I don't believe that they have great responsibility. Though they are certainly wanting to appear to take the accusations against the social networks, including themselves, very seriously so that they can be proactive they can appear before Congress and the American public as extremely patriotic and responsible. Having said that, I would like to take a step back from greater detail to lesser detail because I don't think this whole issue can be discussed reasonably in isolation.

    It fits into a much broader context of information policies and of journalism in our age. Twitter is a relatively new phenomenon, just as Facebook is a relatively new phenomenon, but the issues are not new. The issues are how we receive news and to what extent we accept or seek intermediation by responsible and experienced journalists. Twitter by definition avoids such intermediation, that's its term. It's a mediacy.

    READ MORE: Media Rush to Ponder Alleged Russian Collusion as Twitter Releases 'Troll' Posts

    However, the much bigger issue than the likes of Twitter is that journalism has been failing the world public, and particularly the American public for some time now; and to speak about trolling and fake news, and propaganda, and misinformation, and to ignore the fact that our mainstream, our leading print newspapers and electronic news on cable and satellite and elsewhere, are terribly propagandistic. To anyone who thinks that Twitter is worse or better than The New York Times or Washington Post had better sit down and think it through again.

    Sputnik: What's the best way to prevent the harmful activities of these accounts? It's probably a rhetorical question, do you think that Twitter could and should change its identification policies? First and foremost, it's all down to regulation, isn't it? How you regulate and cover off oversight, it is difficult, isn't it?

    Gilbert Doctorow: Well, what we had had is the risk of their going to excess and de-listing otherwise totally valid accounts. That's a risk Facebook has gone through. There's a hue and cry in the social network world over the attempts by these Twitters and Facebooks and others to appear before the American political elites as being patriotic and as making a serious commitment, including a serious financial commitment, to cleaning up what could be misleading access or accounts that they're hosting.

    READ MORE: Kavanaugh Will Do His Best to Immunize Trump From Criminal Liability — Scholar

    But I think it's all about appearances, not about reality, and also the seriousness of the whole issue depends very much on your own gauge of how influential these Twitters are in forming public opinion and particularly forming political opinion. That is something that people do not talk about very much.

    Sputnik: There have been reports of companies selling Twitter followers to celebrities and politicians, in your view has Twitter done enough to combat these fake accounts? I don't think it is just the celebrities and politicians, I think anyone can buy a number of followers, obviously, this is something that is rather fake and rather untoward with regard to the advent of Twitter, what's your take on it?

    Gilbert Doctorow: I think this is more a commercial than a political issue and that you would have such accounts for sale is understandable, and nor do I see what can be done to prevent it.

    Sputnik: Do you think the changes that Twitter says it has implemented after this discovery will help the platform? I suppose it's all about continuous improvement, we're living in an environment nowadays where people are very untrusting of the information that they are receiving and that's the main problem, isn't it?

    Gilbert Doctorow: Is that a problem or is that something that we should take pride in? To believe information coming through social networks which have no mediation, which have no expert guidance would be extremely naïve; and this issue again is not discussed all around you have isolated cuts on it, and of course Facebook took the heat on this. Twitter is just following in the wake of this much bigger problem that Facebook faced, they came up with just months ago. So it's not going to go away.

    American political elites are very eager to speak about illicit interference in America's political processes, however, the basic issue of foreign entities interfering in a country‘s political life is about as commonplace, has been as commonplace over the centuries as it is today. All that we're dealing with now is a different technological presentation of an old issue and people are getting very upset and very excited about it as if we never had issues like espionage, and intelligence, and counterintelligence. We did.

    READ MORE: Suppressing the Vote? 53,000 US Voter Registrations Placed on Hold Raises Alarm

    They always existed, and so it is with this interference with one another's politics has always been going on, and domestic politics are not sacrosanct. So I think there's really a storm in a teacup over this.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Gilbert Doctorow and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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    election meddling, meddling, 2016 US presidential elections, Twitter, United States
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