Iran faked Twitter users to affect USA, study finds

Frederick Owens
October 19, 2018

The data is linked to thousands of accounts thought to originate from a Russian "troll factory" known as the Internet Research Agency and Iran.

Twitter on Wednesday released data on foreign influence campaigns on its platform showing some 10 million tweets, mostly from Russian Federation, dating back as far as 2009.

"One main objective was to interfere in the U.S. presidential election and prevent Hillary Clinton's victory but it was also aimed at dividing polarised online communities in the United States, unifying support for Russia's global interests and breaking down trust in U.S. institutions", wrote the authors.

As reported, the USA state Department released the 20th of September for the list of sanctions against 33 Russian individuals and legal entities by the US government according to the Act of countering the enemies of America through sanctions (CAATSA).

The trove of data revealed numerous instances when Russian troll accounts tweeted on both sides of divisive debates in the US After shootings in San Bernardino in 2015, one post wrote, "mass shootings won't stop until there are #GunFreeZones #Prayers4California".

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In August, Facebook and Twitter said they had found hundreds of accounts, pages and groups based in Iran that they said covertly spread political content to people on four continents including in the U.S. All of this, authors Vijaya Gadde and Yoel Roth said, has been done "with the goal of encouraging open research and investigation of these behaviours from researchers and academics around the world".

"Today we publish all the accounts and related content, which may be linked to information operations in 2016", - said in a statement. But researchers said the Iranian operation relied on many identities, and at times bots, to push the preferred messages of the Iranian government over a six-year period.

Twitter has also purged millions of fake accounts from its service in recent months.

"For our part, we are committed to understanding how bad-faith actors use our services", said Twitter.

Researchers were able to glean that the IRA posted far more in Russian than in English, especially in late 2014 until early 2015, when Russia was fighting in Ukraine, according to analysis conducted by the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab.

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