Twitter Removes 4,800 Accounts Linked to Iranian Government

A picture taken on March 13, 2018 shows a member of Iran's Assembly of Experts using his phone while attending a session in the capital Tehran. / AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)
ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

Twitter announced on Thursday it has shuttered some 4,800 accounts with ties to the government of Iran. The company said the accounts were engaged in spreading disinformation and propaganda that “benefited the diplomatic and geostrategic views of the Iranian state.”

Twitter found 2,865 Iran-linked accounts which “employed a range of false personas to target conversations about political and social issues in Iran and globally.” Of the banned accounts, 300 were “focused on influencing discussions related to Israel.” The banned accounts collectively generated about two million tweets.

The news was delivered in the latest routine transparency report from Twitter, which says it has committed itself to combating state-sponsored political influence campaigns. Information about the banned accounts is kept in a database that can be accessed by the public with some redactions, or accessed in full by researchers who file requests with the social media company. The database currently contains over 30 million tweets plus associated images and video clips.

The latest transparency action also deleted four accounts associated with the Russian government, 130 originating from Spain, and 33 from Venezuela. The Spanish accounts were all tied to the Catalan independence movement. A purge in February deleted almost 2,000 accounts linked to the regime of socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.

Russia was once the primary Twitter disinformation threat, but Iran appears to have stolen its crown. Thousands of Russian “troll farm” accounts were deleted in previous purges, but this time Russia offered a paltry four accounts compared to Iran’s 4,800.

“We believe that people and organizations with the advantages of institutional power and which consciously abuse our service are not advancing healthy discourse but are actively working to undermine it,” said Twitter’s chief of site integrity, Yoel Roth.

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