Since the 2016 US election, Twitter and others have discovered how automated accounts have been used to seed political divisions and spread hoaxes. Source: Shutterstock

Twitter is on a bot-banishing mission

TWITTER announced on Wednesday a crackdown on how users and apps can automate tweets in an attempt to fight against spam and political propaganda bots.

“These changes are an important step in ensuring we stay ahead of malicious activity targeting the crucial conversations taking place on Twitter – including elections in the United States and around the world,” Twitter developer policy lead Yoel Roth said in a blog post.

Since the 2016 US election, Twitter and others have discovered how automated accounts have been used to seed political divisions and spread hoaxes.  Last month, it was revealed that over 50,000 accounts were linked to Russian propaganda efforts. It was also reported that in the final weeks of the 2016 US election campaign, Russian bots retweeted Trump nearly 500,000 times.

“One of the most common spam violations we see is the use of multiple accounts and the Twitter developer platform to attempt to artificially amplify or inflate the prominence of certain tweets,” Roth wrote.

Twitter has outlined a series of specific policies and exceptions for account automation. Users can no longer send the same tweet from multiple accounts using platforms such as Tweetdeck. On top of this, Tweeters will no longer be allowed to like, retweet or follow other users from multiple accounts at once.

This ban on bulk tweeting applies to both immediate posting of duplicate tweets and scheduling them over a period of time.

According to the social media platform, these rules do not apply to weather, emergency, or other public service announcements of broad community interest. So for example, in the event of a tsunami, a warning can be posted to multiple accounts at once.

Filippo Menczer, Informatics and computer science professor at Indiana University, believes that this step from Twitter is “just one piece of the puzzle” in combating the spread of misinformation online. He tells CNN tech that bad actors have other, much more sophisticated ways of automating tweets, such as developing their own software in order to avoid using Twitter’s own programs.

Many users awoke on Wednesday to find a sharp drop in their followers, which led to a series of hashtags to trend including #TwitterLockOut and #TwitterPurge, with many accusing the social media platform of censoring far-right views.

When asked about the follower-decline, a Twitter spokesperson denied any political bias involved.

“Twitter’s tools are apolitical,” the spokesperson said.

“This is part of our ongoing, comprehensive efforts to make Twitter safer and healthier for everyone.”

 





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