Facing scrutiny from Congress, Twitter today disclosed that more than 200 Russia-linked accounts had been used to spread propaganda and misinformation on the company’s platform.
The news follows similar disclosures from Facebook. Twitter points out that it found 22 accounts corresponding to those Facebook found. Additionally, Twitter found another 179 accounts. All of those accounts, Twitter said, had been or were soon banned, usually for violating spam rules. Unlike on Facebook, Twitter said the accounts it identified were not registered as advertisers.
Twitter’s blog post, while not quite directly attributing any activity to those accounts, discussed what the company does to combat issues like gaming Trending Topics and automating spam. The company noted that a large source of spam had historically been from “Russia and other post-Soviet states,” but said it was “much trickier” tracking activity coordinated by humans.
The blog post also discussed Russia Today, a news service that takes direction from the Kremlin and has been criticized as an influence network. Twitter said it had disclosed to Congress that the organization spent more than $274,000 on ads in 2016, and had also promoted at least 1,800 tweets that may have been directed at the United States.
Twitter released the news today after meeting with lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees, which are investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The company said that, over the coming months, it will be introducing new ways to detect malicious activity, although it did not provide specifics. “These are not meant to be definitive solutions,” the company said in the post. “We’ve been fighting against these issues for years, and as long as there are people trying to manipulate Twitter, we will be working hard to stop them.”
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, immediately slammed Twitter’s response. According to Recode, the senator took issue with Twitter tying its work to what Facebook had already uncovered, calling its disclosures “deeply disappointing.” In a statement, Rep. Adam Schiff said Twitter has “taken remedial steps” but “has significant forensic work to do to understand the depth and breadth of Russian activity during the campaign.”