What just happened? The US election is on the horizon, and, as expected, misinformation originating from foreign sources is landing on social media. Earlier this week, Twitter removed 130 accounts that were trying to disrupt public conversation around the first presidential debate. It appears that the accounts had links to Iran.
Twitter announced that it removed the accounts based on FBI intel, noting that they had low engagement and did not impact public conversation because of their prompt removal.
The platform said it would publish the accounts and their contents in full once an investigation is complete. The sample tweets showed support for Trump and questioned whether moderator Chris Wallace is nonpartisan.
We identified these accounts quickly, removed them from Twitter, and shared full details with our peers, as standard. They had very low engagement and did not make an impact on the public conversation. Our capacity and speed continue to grow, and we'll remain vigilant. Samples ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/1qzzL8l29H— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) October 1, 2020
The FBI confirmed it informed Twitter of the accounts in an effort to protect national security and the democratic process. A spokesman in the FBI's San Francisco field office told CNET: "Although we cannot discuss the specific information provided, the FBI regularly shares information with social media companies so they can better protect their platforms."
While Russia is the usual culprit when it comes to US election interference, Iran has been behind misinformation campaigns in the past. In June 2019, Twitter removed 4,779 accounts linked to the Middle Eastern country's government.
We know to expect foreign interference in this year's election. Earlier this month, a new report claimed the same Russian-backed hackers blamed for breaking into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2016, Fancy Bear, targeted one of Joe Biden's campaign advisory firms, but its attempts failed.