Twitter shuts down thousands of international accounts tied to political spam

Posted at 11:42 AM, Sep 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-21 11:43:19-04

Twitter on Friday said it shut down thousands of fake accounts from around the world, many of them tied to “political” spam.

The accounts were operating in five jurisdictions identified by Twitter, including China/Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and more.

The company said it identified an additional 4,301 accounts operating in China that were attempting to “sow discord about the protest movements in Hong Kong.” This comes after Twitter cracked down on a network of more than 200,000 fake accounts in August.

Twitter said it detected a group of accounts “linked to Saudi Arabia’s state-run media apparatus which were engaged in coordinated efforts to amplify messaging that was beneficial to the Saudi government.”

These accounts were presented as “independent journalistic outlets while tweeting narratives favorable to the Saudi government,” according to Twitter.

More than 270 accounts originating from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt were taken down because they had the goal of targeting Qatar, Iran and other countries as well as amplifying "messaging supportive of the Saudi government," according to Twitter.

These accounts were created and managed by the private tech company DotDev, which has been permanently suspended from using the platform, Twitter said.

Separately in the region, Twitter said it suspended over 4,000 accounts operating in the UAE that tweeted content directed at Qatar and Yemen, "such as the Yemeni Civil War and the Houthi Movement."

In Spain, 265 accounts operated by the group Partido Popular were removed for “falsely boosting public sentiment online in Spain.”

In Ecuador, Twitter shut down more than 1,000 accounts associated with the PAIS Alliance political party that "was primarily engaged in spreading content about President Moreno’s administration."

In the new disclosure of data, the social media giant said its archive of “state-backed informations operations” is now the largest in the world.

The move comes just ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential elections.