Less than 24 hours after BuzzFeed News alerted Twitter to the existence of yet another network of suspected Russian propaganda accounts, the company suspended 45 more users.
As BuzzFeed reports, the accounts were primarily German language and contained anti-Angela Merkel messaging, though some included bizarre statements supportive of Donald Trump that were in English.
Many of the English-language Trump tweets from the now-suspended accounts included strange memes claiming that although “Trump is a gay,” they still “love” him.
As the report notes, journalists at BuzzFeed discovered the existence of the German pro-Trump and anti-Merkel and anti-Brexit accounts through “a very simple form of network analysis” — by searching through a database of 17 million tweets related to Brexit compiled by the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom.
According to Damian Collins, a member of the UK’s Conservative Party that chairs Parliament’s culture, media and sports committee, BuzzFeed’s discovery of these accounts “clearly calls into question the evidence that Twitter provided to the US Senate judiciary and intelligence committees and demonstrates that whatever process the company undertook to identify Russian-backed fake accounts was simply not rigorous enough.”
“The technology exists to aid the identification of fake accounts based on their shared characteristics and use of language,” Collins, who is leading an inquiry into fake news, told BuzzFeed. “Twitter should be deploying this to identify other accounts linked to organisations like the Russian Internet Research Agency.”
A University of Sheffield employee called the German-language network identified in their Brexit database “a failed experiment” because the tweets garnered very few interactions and were primarily retweeted by other suspected bots.
Nevertheless, Collins said the information Twitter has handed over so far is “only the tip of a very large iceberg.”