Senator calls out Twitter as ‘inadequate on every level’ for failing to investigate Russian bots
A leading senator focusing on the Russia investigation strongly condemned Twitter Thursday after the social media site failed to investigate the use of the platform by Russian operatives.
According to a New York Times report, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), who serves as the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that the closed-door briefing for congressional investigators by Twitter was “very disappointing.” He went on to accuse the site of ignoring evidence of obvious fraud in the Russian activities.
Warner said that the presentation from Twitter “showed an enormous lack of understanding from the Twitter team of how serious this issue is, the threat it poses to democratic institutions and again begs many more questions than they offered.” He went on to say that the company’s response “was frankly inadequate on every level.”
According to Twitter, they found approximately 200 accounts that were linked to a Russian campaign to impact the 2016 presidential election. This seems consistent with the efforts made by accounts linked to Russia on Facebook. However, in that case, Facebook found multiple micro-targeted ads being run from the accounts that directly focused on key areas of swing states. Many officials are now asking how the Russia-linked accounts knew to target those areas.
Twitter noted that they used Facebook’s investigation to find links in the 470 fake profiles and pages that investigators have already begun the probe. In Facebook’s case, those accounts represented themselves as American activists who were passionate about the election, but were in fact spreading false information and “fake news.”
Of the 200 accounts Twitter identified as linked to Russian campaigns, 22 of them were directly tied to the Facebook pages. Another 179 were “related or linked” to the accounts.
While Twitter posted a statement about the findings on their blog, The New York Times notes they didn’t address the extensive information that were given to Congressional leaders. All details that addressed the findings from outside experts, like cybersecurity company FireEye, was not included. FireEye found hundreds of automated Twitter accounts that were linked to Russian hacking groups. They sent the same tweet thousands of times from the uncovered bots and were able to get hashtags or topics to trend on the social media site.
Warner admitted he was “more than a bit surprised in light of all of the public interest in this subject over the last few weeks that anyone from the Twitter team would think that the presentation they made to Senate staff today even began to answer the kinds of questions that we’d asked.”
He went on to say that Twitter has a lot of work left to do.
“This raises at an even greater level the necessity that the American public has the ability to know when they are seeing a political ad, who’s behind it — particularly if it is being sponsored by foreign agents,” he said.