Twitter Releases Datasets Covering Accounts That Were Removed in 4 Countries

Coordinated, state-backed activity was uncovered in Iran, Russia, Spain and Venezuela

Twitter released six additional datasets regarding accounts that were removed in four countries—Iran, Russia, Spain and Venezuela—for coordinated, state-backed activities.

The social network released two sizable datasets last October chronicling activity by Russia’s Internet Research Agency (1.24 gigabits of tweet information and 296 GB of media in 302 archives) and a set of accounts that potentially originated in Iran (168 megabits of tweet information and 65.7 GB of media in 52 archives).

Iran and the IRA figured prominently in the datasets Twitter made available Thursday, via its Elections Integrity hub.

Information was released on three sets of accounts from Iran, 4,779 in total, that Twitter believes were either associated with or backed by that country’s government.

One set of 1,666 accounts, which cumulatively tweeted almost 2 million times, shared global news content, often with an angle benefiting the Iranian state’s diplomatic and geostrategic views.

A second set, 248 accounts, were more directly engaged with discussions specifically related to Israel.

Finally, a third set of 2,865 accounts was removed in May after being discovered by U.S.-based cybersecurity firm FireEye. Twitter said these accounts used false personas to target conversations about political and social issues in Iran and globally.

Four accounts that the social network believes were associated with Russia’s IRA were pulled, and Twitter head of site integrity Yoel Roth said in a blog post, “These removals are the result of increased information sharing between industry peers and law enforcement.”

A total of 130 fake accounts in Spain that were directly associated with the Catalan independence movement—specifically Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya—were suspended earlier this year. Twitter said they focused on content about the Catalan Referendum and sought to “inorganically influence the conversation in politically advantageous ways.”

And in Venezuela, 33 accounts were banned for engaging in platform manipulation targeted outside of the country. Roth wrote that initial indications that these accounts were associated with the IRA did not prove to be correct, and they were operated by a commercial entity originating in Venezuela. Twitter also believes they are connected with a group of 764 accounts in Venezuela that were removed in January.

Roth wrote, “Our site integrity team is dedicated to identifying and investigating suspected platform manipulation on Twitter, including potential state-backed activity. In partnership with teams across the company, we employ a range of open-source and proprietary signals and tools to identify when attempted coordinated manipulation may be taking place, as well as the actors responsible for it. We also partner closely with governments, law enforcement and our peer companies to improve our understanding of the actors involved in information operations and develop a holistic strategy for addressing them.”