Twitter Releases Tweets Showing Foreign Attempts to Influence US Politics
Twitter has released a collection of more than 10 million tweets it says are related to foreign efforts to influence U.S. elections going back a decade, including many tied to Russia’s digital efforts to sow chaos and sway the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump.
Twitter says it made the cache, which includes tweets from Iran and Russia’s state-sponsored troll farm, Internet Research Agency, available so researchers around the world could conduct their own analyses.
The non-partisan Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab has been looking through the collection since last week. In a preliminary analysis posted on Medium, the online publishing platform, the Lab noted operators from Iran and Russia appeared to have targeted politically polarized groups in order to maximize divisiveness in the United States’ political scene.
“The Russian trolls were non-partisan: they tried to inflame everybody, regardless of race, creed, politics, or sexual orientation,” the Lab noted, “On many occasions, they pushed both sides of divisive issues.”
Sifting through the collection is no small task. The entire set, available for public download on Twitter’s news blog, encompasses spreadsheets and archived tweets from 3,841 Russian-linked accounts and 770 Iran-linked accounts. The downloads add up to more than 450 gigabytes of data.
The micro-blogging company said in its post, “They include more than 10 million tweets and more than two million images, GIFs, videos, and Periscope broadcasts, including the earliest Twitter activity from accounts connected with these campaigns, dating back to 2009….”
Twitter has taken increasing steps to generate public goodwill over its perceived connection to Russian attempts to sway the 2016 election and its role in the spread of fake news. In January, the company notified about 1.4 million users that they had interacted with Russia-linked accounts during the election or had followed those accounts at the time they were suspended.