In an effort to combat fake news and bot accounts, Twitter suspended more than 70 million accounts in May and June, 2018, the Washington Post reports.
This is a major shift for the platform, WaPo suggests, since the rate of account suspension has more than doubled since October, 2017.
The year 2018 seems to be a turbulent year for Twitter. A large MIT study published in March showed that fake news spread much faster than the truth on Twitter, while also demonstrating that it is actually organic Twitter users, and not bots, that are to blame for the rapid spread of falsehoods. If it is indeed organic users that are mostly responsible for the spread of fake news, what will a bot purge accomplish?
For one, the purge will likely result in a decline in the number of monthly users in the second quarter, an individual familiar with the matter told the Washington Post. However, the company itself seems unsure what the goal of the purge is, although it comes in response to Russian misinformation internet campaigns, and ahead of the 2018 midterms.
Del Harvey, Twitter’s Vice President for Trust and Safety, suggested that the company is going through a major change “balancing free expression versus the potential for free expression to chill someone else’s speech.”
“Free expression doesn’t really mean much if people don’t feel safe,” Harvey said.
Political leaders, who urged tech companies to “do better” in 2018 midterms, seem happy with the decision. Democratic Senator Mark R. Warner, the top ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, cautiously welcomed Twitter’s bot purge, suggesting that the company should have reacted sooner.
“I wish Twitter had been more proactive, sooner. I’m glad that – after months of focus on this issue – Twitter appears to be cracking down on the use of bots and other fake accounts, though there is still much work to do,” Warner told the Washington Post.
In January, as the Inquisitr reported, an undercover video showing a senior network security engineer at Twitter sharing insider information about how the company operated went viral, prompting concern. In May, it was revealed that Twitter had stored user passwords in plain text, instead of encrypting them.
A month earlier, The Telegraph revealed that Twitter had worked closely with a Cambridge Analytica researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, allowing Kogan’s company to collect large data sets.
According to data obtained by the Washington Post, Twitter’s bot purge will continue into July.