Twitter says it will email 677,775 people in the U.S. to warn that they interacted with Russian propaganda accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a St. Petersburg–based troll farm that significantly disrupted the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
In an update to the social media network’s review of the 2016 election published in a blog on Friday, Twitter said it had identified an additional 1,062 accounts linked to IRA, bringing the total to 3,814 accounts that posted nearly 176,000 tweets during a 10–week period prior to the election. It said that 8.4% of these were election–related, which represents “a very small fraction of the overall activity on Twitter” during the period of study.
Sure, Twitter. No big deal.
Twitter also said it had discovered 50,258 Russian–linked automated accounts that tweeted election–related content during the election period.
Among the people who likely will receive one of Twitter’s email warnings is the president’s own son, Donald Trump Jr., who followed a fake Tennessee Republican Party account linked to the IRA. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway—who recently claimed that no one in the White House talks about Hillary Clinton— retweeted a post ahead of the election from the same Russian propaganda account about, you guessed it, Clinton’s emails.
“Mother of jailed sailor: ‘Hold Hillary to same standards as my son on Classified info’ #hillarysemail #WeinerGate,” the tweet said.
According to CNN, confessed felon and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, his son, and former deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka also followed IRA–linked accounts, meaning they, too, will receive Twitter’s email alert.
Twitter said that as of December, it had “identified and challenged more than 6.4 million suspicious accounts globally per week,” a 60% increase from October 2017. The company promised to invest further in “machine–learning capabilities” in 2018 to “detect and mitigate” fake, coordinated, and automated activity. And it said it would “monitor trends and spikes in conversations relating to the 2018 elections for potential manipulation activity.”
Despite Twitter’s efforts, Russia hasn’t ceased its online propaganda efforts, which unsurprisingly coincide with those of Trump allies in the Republican Party to distract from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe by attacking former President Barack Obama.
Citing Hamilton 68, which tracks online Russian propaganda in real time, Business Insider reported on Friday that Russia–linked Twitter bots have been promoting the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo in recent days, a reference to Trump lackey Rep. Devin Nunes’ efforts to sidetrack the Mueller investigation with Benghazi–style attacks claiming that Obama had the Trump campaign under surveillance prior to the election.
“The frequency with which the accounts have been promoting the hashtag has spiked by 233,000% over the past 48 hours, according to the site. The accounts’ references to the ‘memo,’ meanwhile, have increased by 68,000%,” Business Insider reported.
Update, 4:44 p.m.: Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, from Texas, received one of Twitter’s email warnings.