Monday, January 29, 2018

Russian Bots Retweeted Trump Nearly 500,000 times In The Last Weeks Of The 2016 Election

According to Twitter's written statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee that automated Russian Twitter accounts, or bots, retweeted Donald Trump almost half a million times in the final weeks before the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

The company determined that 50,258 Russian-linked automated accounts, which were designed to look like they were run by real Americans, sent more than 2.1 million election-related tweets between September 1 and November 15, 2016.

For comparison Donald Trump was retweeted 10 times more than his rival Hillary Clinton and were responsible for 4.25% of all retweets of Trump's account in the last weeks of the election campaign.

The more than 50,000 accounts are in addition to 3,814 accounts the company found that were run by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian government-linked troll group based in St. Petersburg.

The company also revealed how the bots helped amplify content from what it described as "Russian-linked accounts" including @Wikileaks. The 50,000 accounts retweeted Wikileaks almost 200,000 times during the ten-week period, Twitter said.

The result of the automated Twitter accounts tweeting and retweeting the same thing en masse created talking points that appear to have more support than they actually do.

In addition hacked emails from the personal accounts of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, which were first released by Wikileaks in October 2016, were promptly promoted by the bots by pushing #PodestaEmails and were responsible for nearly 5% of all tweets containing the hashtag.

The company said that it may not have identified all Russian-linked automated accounts as it said that 12% of all accounts created on the platform hide their location using virtual private networks.

Twitter's analysis of Russian automated bot activity stems from their appearance before Congress last year for hearings on Russian efforts to use social media platforms to influence the U.S. presidential election.

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