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Twitter has Deleted almost 6000 Saudi-State Backed Accounts for Violating Platform Manipulation Policies

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The Six Thousand Accounts were part of a Larger Spam Network of 88,000

On casual observation, there appears to be a surge in bogus accounts attempting to manipulate on Twitter recently and now this has been confirmed, partially, with six thousand accounts deleted with Twitter disclosing the inauthentic behavior and violations as well as the State-backed Source (Saudia Arabia) in its blog today.

The disclosure shows some very interesting tricks that various bad actors are using to try and mask their true intent in order to “survive” longer on the platform without having their accounts deleted.

According to the Twitter blog the Saudi Arabian government backed accounts were engaging in retweeting, liking and replying, using automation, in order to mask tweets with a political agenda favorable to Saudi Interests.

The method of masking the true goal of an account that is an automated spam bot is becoming more common based on our observations of the platform. Accounts favorable to Trump, that appear inauthentic (robots) will retweet and even retweet liberal content, such as tweets favorable to AOC, to mask their intent. Then, if the account is followed, pro-Trump spam is sent via private direct messages, for example.

As the Tricks get Deeper and the Stakes Higher, Twitter must also Evolve in its Response

It appears that , with this report on the eighty-eight thousand account take down, Twitter is learning and following as these attempts to avoid detection are created, developed and implemented.

Twitter also disclosed that a social media marketing and management company based in Saudi Arabia called Smaat was behind the platform manipulation. The company has also been “permanently” banned from using Twitter due to the activity. In an interesting additional action, the accounts of senior executives of the company were also deleted and the persons banned.

The company used third party automation services to produce high volumes of activity related to non-political content. This, based on the content, is not necessarily against Twitter policy as such amplification of non-political content in allowed. In this case, however, the high volume of activity was used to mask the political content that was interspersed in the “storm” of activity.

Here is the quote from Twitter that serves as a comment on the action and what they intend for future cases:

“We exist to serve the public conversation around the world. To this end, we’ll continue to take strong enforcement action against any state-backed information campaigns which undermine our company’s mission, principles, and policies.”

– Twitter

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