Twitter has handed over to US Senate investigators the profile names of 201 accounts linked to Russian attempts at influencing the 2016 presidential election. The company has stepped up its efforts to cooperate with investigators after it was criticised for not taking congressional probes seriously enough.
The company’s policy calls for removing tweets that a user deletes on their own. But that policy also states that some tweets can survive the process. For instance, retweets of deleted tweets will remain live if the retweeter added a comment. Twitter also cannot remove tweets that have been temporarily stored, or “cached,” by services such as Google or reposted on other sites.
Twitter might be able to recover some information about any deleted tweets, a source said but added that the company is working with investigators to find information that is useful. The account handles previously had not been submitted in part due to legal privacy issues, the person said.
Twitter is set to appear on November 1 before the Senate intelligence committee at a public hearing. Both Facebook and Google have been invited to testify at the same hearing. Twitter previously uncovered the accounts linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency – a notorious “troll farm” known for pushing out pro-Russian positions via fake accounts – by using information provided by Facebook, which found 470 Russia-linked pages or accounts.
After looking for patterns linking those accounts and pages to accounts on its service, Twitter said it had suspended 22 accounts that pushed divisive social or political issues during the 2016 campaign. It found another 179 related or linked accounts and took action against those that violated its spam rules.
The company enforces an anti-spam policy against bots and human users that exhibit unusual behaviour. Such flags include having multiple accounts repeatedly retweet the same posts or having multiple accounts follow or block other users.
After Twitter’s initial closed-door briefing with the Senate committee late last month, Virginia Senator Mark Warner – the top Democrat on the committee – called the company’s findings “frankly inadequate” and “derivative” of Facebook’s work.