Amid a growing consensus that Russia meddled with the 2016 US presidential election, Twitter announced on Thursday that it had suspended over 200 fake Russian accounts as it probes online efforts to interfere with last year's poll process.
The micro-blogging site, which also identified Russia Today of buying ads targeted at American users' accounts, said that it would cooperate with congressional committees with respect to investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 US election. According to the company, it will also continue to strengthen its platform against attempted manipulation, including bots, spam and malicious information networks.
Twitter said it had identified and deleted 22 accounts directly linked to about 450 fake Facebook accounts tied to Russia. The company also unearthed an additional 179 related or linked accounts.
Meanwhile, Colin Crowell, Twitter's Vice President for Public Policy, met with staff from Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in a closed-door meeting on Thursday. The company shared with committee staff a round-up of ads that were targeted to the US market in 2016 by three Russia Today (RT) accounts.
"Based on our findings thus far, RT spent $274,100 in U.S. ads in 2016. In that year, the @RT_com, @RT_America, and @ActualidadRT accounts promoted 1,823 Tweets that definitely or potentially targeted the U.S. market. These campaigns were directed at followers of mainstream media and primarily promoted RT Tweets regarding news stories," Twitter said in a blog post.
Despite Twitter's effort to deface bots and networks of manipulation on the website, Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, criticised the company's response as insufficient. According to Warner, Twitter officials didn't answer many questions about Russian use of its platform.
Twitter's presentation "showed an enormous lack of understanding from the Twitter team of how serious this issue is," Warner reportedly said, adding that the company's statements were "deeply disappointing" and "inadequate on almost every level."
Twitter, meanwhile, didn't comment on Warner's remarks.
"Due to the nature of these inquiries, we may not always be able to publicly share what we discuss with investigators," Twitter said. "It's important to note our work to fight both malicious bots and misinformation goes beyond any one specific election, event, or time period. We've spent years working to identify and remove spammy or malicious accounts and applications on Twitter."