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Twitter releases archive of 10 million tweets from state-backed troll accounts

Twitter releases archive of 10 million tweets from state-backed troll accounts

Twitter has published an archive of nearly 10 million tweets from troll accounts today, providing a vast pile of data for academics to pull from as they continue to research the methods foreign trolls used to influence public and political discourse across the world over the past few years.

The tweets originated between 2013 and 2018. Nine million of them were published by 3,800 different accounts affiliated with the Russian Internet Research Agency, and the last million tweets were posted by 770 accounts that the company said originated from Iran.

“It is clear that information operations and coordinated inauthentic behavior will not cease. These types of tactics have been around for far longer than Twitter has existed — they will adapt and change as the geopolitical terrain evolves worldwide and as new technologies emerge,” the blog post said. “For our part, we are committed to understanding how bad-faith actors use our services.

The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab had an opportunity to sort through the data prior to today’s official release. In a Medium post, the organization pointed out several strategies the Russian and Iranian accounts used as part of their potential information operations.

“The most effective Russian trolls used exactly the techniques which drive genuine online activism and engagement,” the post said. The methods described were some of the more standard techniques that have been detected before, like targeting polarizing communities and large events like elections in order to influence public discourse.

Facebook has published similar sets of data following the 2016 election cycle and the company’s initial discovery of the misinformation campaigns being run on its platform. This past summer, the social network released a similarly massive set of posts and links that foreign trolls propagated on the site.

“Identifying future foreign influence operations, and reducing their impact, will demand awareness and resilience from the activist communities targeted, not just the platforms and the open source community,” the DFR Lab wrote.