Twitter Says It Found 201 Russia-Linked Accounts That Aimed to Influence U.S. Election -- 2nd Update
By Georgia Wells, Byron Tau and Robert McMillan
Twitter Inc. on Thursday offered its first public information on Russian use of its platform during the U.S. presidential election, but its limited disclosure only fueled criticism from lawmakers who are pushing for greater transparency from internet companies over how their platforms are manipulated.
In presentations to congressional investigators and a post on its site, Twitter said it found 201 accounts on its service linked to Russian actors that Facebook Inc. recently identified as having run ads meant to sow political and social division. In addition, Twitter said the Russian-backed news site RT, which a U.S. intelligence report said aimed to meddle in the election, bought $274,100 of ads on Twitter last year. That compared with $152,000 that Facebook said Russian actors spent on its site.
But Twitter's comments left unclear the extent of the problem, including how many accounts attempted to spread misinformation or violated Twitter's rules, and how users interacted with those tweets.
Twitter in its statement identified only accounts that corresponded to the roughly 450 Russian-linked accounts that Facebook had identified as purchasing $150,000 in ads to provoke political tension.
Twitter said it found 22 accounts with corresponding Facebook accounts that Facebook said had Russian links, and another 179 with ties to those accounts. The company said it suspended some of those accounts for violating its rules. It also suspended bots that spread misleading information about voting, such as ones that said Americans could "text-to-vote."
Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat and the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the meeting with Twitter was "deeply disappointing" and added the company had not done enough to examine the extent of Russian activity on its platform.
Mr. Warner, who has long pushed for a deeper examination of Russian activity in online communities, criticized Twitter for only analyzing accounts derivative of Facebook accounts. That showed "an enormous lack of understanding from the Twitter team of how serious this issue is, the threat it poses to the democratic institutions and again begs many more questions than they offer," he said.
A Twitter spokeswoman declined to comment directly on Mr. Warner's remarks.