Twitter suspends Russia-linked accounts, but U.S. senator says response inadequate

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Twitter (TWTR.N) said on Thursday it had suspended about 200 Russian-linked accounts as it probes online efforts to meddle with the 2016 U.S. election, but an influential Democratic senator slammed its steps as insufficient.

Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, summoned Twitter officials to testify behind closed doors on Thursday as part of broad investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. Facebook (FB.O) faced a similar grilling earlier this month.

Lawmakers in both parties suspect social networks may have played a big role in Moscow’s attempts to spread propaganda, sow political discord in the United States and help elect President Donald Trump. Moscow denies any such activity, and Trump has denied any collusion.

Twitter also briefed the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

Warner said Twitter officials had not answered many questions about Russian use of the platform and that it was still subject to foreign manipulation.

The company’s presentation to the Intelligence Committee “showed an enormous lack of understanding from the Twitter team of how serious this issue is,” Warner said. He took particular umbrage at what he said was Twitter’s decision to largely confine its review to accounts linked to fake profiles already spotted by Facebook.

Twitter said it had identified and removed 22 accounts directly linked to about 500 fake Facebook pages or profiles tied to Russia and that it unearthed an additional 179 accounts that were otherwise related.

Twitter declined to comment when asked about Warner’s comments.

In addition to the private testimony by its officials, the company published a public blog post Thursday with its most detailed discussion to date of the steps it was taking to combat propaganda.

Warner in remarks to reporters called Twitter’s statements “deeply disappointing” and “inadequate on almost every level.”

The comments signaled that the congressional investigations into Russia’s use of social media platforms would not ease up. Twitter, Facebook and other Internet companies including Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O) are facing a steady stream of criticism as more information emerges about manipulation of their platforms during the 2016 election campaign.

Users, lawmakers and technology analysts have long criticized Twitter as too lax in policing fake or abusive accounts. Unlike Facebook, Twitter allows both anonymous accounts and automated accounts, or bots, making it far more difficult to police the service.

On Thursday, researchers at Oxford University published a study concluding that Twitter bots disseminated misinformation and propaganda at a higher rate in U.S. battleground states than in noncompetitive states during a 10-day period around Election Day in November.

San Francisco-based Twitter said Russian media outlet Russia Today, which is close to the Kremlin, had spent $ 274,100 on Twitter advertisements and promoted 1,823 tweets potentially aimed at the U.S. market.

Those ad buys alone topped the $ 100,000 that Facebook this month linked to a Russian propaganda operation during the 2016 election cycle, a revelation that prompted calls from some Democrats for new disclosure rules for online political ads.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, was more tempered in his assessment of Twitter’s briefing, saying in a statement that the firm expressed a desire to work cooperatively with investigators and conduct additional analyses.

‘LOW-QUALITY TWEETS’

Twitter announced new measures to toughen restrictions on suspect spammers, for example by reducing the time that suspicious accounts stay visible during company investigations.

To thwart abuse via applications interacting with Twitter, the company said it had suspended 117,000 apps since June that had been responsible for 1.5 billion “low-quality” tweets this year.

Twitter said it wanted to strengthen disclosure rules on political advertising, as Facebook has just done.

Warner is leading efforts to introduce legislation requiring internet platforms to reveal who is purchasing online political ads, which would bring them in line with rules governing ads on radio or television.

He told reporters on Thursday he did not have a Republican co-sponsor for a draft measure he was circulating he was confident there would be bipartisan interest.

Reporting by Dustin Volz and Joseph Menn; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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The Pokemon GO Craze, Nintendo’s Surge, And How Twitter Predicted It All

By now you’ve read the stories. People staring at their phones, trying to capture small digital creatures and walking blindly into traffic. A woman discovering a corpse while hunting for a cartoon on her phone near a river. Groups of gamers congregating near complete strangers’ homes, seemingly at random. All of it, connected to the latest mobile craze courtesy of Nintendo – Pokemon GO. The new virtual, mobile game is getting a tremendous amount of buzz in the media, among users and on Wall Street. In the first week post launch, Nintendo moved from its usual spot around 24th in the LikeFolio Top50 all the way up to 6th– getting more Twitter mentions of its brands and products than powerhouse companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Netflix and Facebook.

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Twitter, Facebook and Google being sued amidst claims they knowingly ‘aided Paris attacks’


Reynaldo Gonzalez’s daughter, Nohemi, was among the 130 killed when religious extremists attacked Paris last year. Now, he’s suing Twitter, Facebook and Google for facilitating the spread of “extremist propaganda” after alleging the trio “knowingly permitted” ISIS to recruit, raise money and spread its message across each of the respective platforms. According to court documents: “For years, [the companies] have knowingly permitted the terrorist group ISIS to use their social networks as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds and attracting new recruits. This material support has been instrumental to the rise of ISIS, and has enabled it to…

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Facebook goes down and Twitter lights up

Facebook crashed for at least 10 minutes today and then struggled to fully come back online.

When users tried to open or refresh their Facebook pages a little after 12:30 p.m. ET today, they were greeted not with their news feed but with a largely blank screen that simply said, “Sorry, something went wrong. We’re working on it and we’ll get it fixed as soon as we can.”

The site began to come back online around 12:50 p.m., though some users reported still having trouble loading the site until about 1 p.m.

Facebook did not return a request for information on what caused the problem.

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Twitter app ads now support autoplay video

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App ads are about on Twitter are about to get a bit more lively; brands can now promote their products with video. Previously, companies had to use regular old promoted text or image tweets as their best bet to advertise apps to their audiences. Twitter says video leads to higher user engagement and nearly triple the app installs, given nearly 90 percent of its video views are on mobile devices. WATCH: Bring your app to life with the Video App Card https://t.co/OEhtqHUy7r — Twitter Advertising (@TwitterAds) September 24, 2015   Overall, 82 percent users watch video on the platform, so the ads…

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Twitter confirms it’s experimenting with native polls in tweets

Twitter typographic wallpaper

Twitter is looking at possibly letting users add quick polls to their tweets. A company spokesperson confirmed the move in a statement to VentureBeat saying, “We’re experimenting with a new way to poll users on Twitter.”

Right now, it looks like polls are only visible on Twitter’s mobile apps and website, but not on desktop applications like TweetDeck. There’s no indication of whether this capability will be rolled out to the rest of the 316 million monthly active users, as it’s an experiment that could wind up being shelved.

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This isn’t the first time that Twitter has rolled out polls on its communications service. Previously, companies were able to poll their followers through custom card polls. In 2014, Twitter revealed that it was testing out a feature that would enable native ads for publishers. Today’s sightings may hint that these could be rolled out to a wider audience.

From what we’ve seen, all polls have a 24-hour time limit on them.

While Twitter declined to provide more information, a quick query on the site showed that at least Twitter employees and also some verified profiles, including those in the media and in sports, have access to embed these polls.

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