Twitter says that 1.4 million users engaged with Russian trolls during the 2016 election in the US. This is double the number of people that were initially identified. Nonetheless, there is speculation that the actual number could be higher. Twitter has acknowledged that there was a disinformation campaign on its platform led mostly by Kremlin.
The social media platform added that it has notified the 1.4 million users affected that they have seen or engaged with this propaganda. US lawmakers have been investigating Russia’s social media tactics during the 2016 election and Twitter had promised to present this data to the panel. It seems that the company has kept its promise.
Twitter said that there were roughly 3,000 accounts that were dedicated to spreading misinformation and fake news during the election. The accounts belonged to the Internet Research Agency which has been described as the Russian “troll farm.” Twitter says that all users who followed these accounts, liked or replied their tweets, or retweeted any of the 3,000 accounts, have been notified.
It looks like the 1.4 million figure is only limited to users who interacted with Russian propaganda in one way or another. There are of course many other users out there who could have seen the disinformation and decided not to act or do anything about it. It’s not clear what this number is but it could be significant. The identified users were only those who either followed, liked, retweeted, or reacted to tweets from the 3,000 troll accounts.
Twitter also confirmed that there were about 50,000 Russian related bots that actively tweeted information related to the US election. It’s not clear whether Twitter will release another report on the issue. A statement on the blog, however, indicated that the review was not over. Twitter confirmed that it will continue to review and assess the interaction between its users and Russian propaganda. The company added that additional users could be notified as the review continues.
Social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook have continued to feel the heat from elected leaders on their content policies. The platforms have often been accused of doing very little to stop the dissemination of fake news and disinformation on their platforms. The 2016 election was the perfect example of just how powerful fake information can be if not controlled.
In fact, Facebook could report worse numbers than Twitter. Although a review on fake news and Russian propaganda on the platform is still ongoing, early indications show that at least 126 million people might have interacted with Russian propaganda on Facebook.
The good thing, for now, is that major social media platforms have acknowledged that indeed fake news is a problem on their platforms. Facebook recently rolled a new program that aimed at categorizing trustworthy news sources based on user preferences in an attempt to deal with this issue. But we will have to wait and see whether that will work or not.