- Twitter has suspended hundreds of bot accounts identified by NBC News as being involved in a coordinated campaign to defend the Saudi government’s role in the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
- Twitter told Business Insider it had already been aware of the bot accounts, which it said behaved like spam accounts.
- Twitter said it could not definitively link the accounts to the Saudi government.
Twitter is suspending hundreds of bot accounts involved in a coordinated effort to flood the service with political messages about the suspected murder of a prominent Saudi dissident.
The accounts have unleashed a barrage of messages in recent days that support the Saudi government’s account in its role in the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, according to NBC News which reported about the situation on Thursday. Twitter began cracking down on the accounts after it was notified, according to NBC News.
Twitter, however, says it’s been aware of such accounts for “some time” and that it was already in the process of shutting them down, a spokesperson told Business Insider on Friday.
Bots are automated accounts that are used by spammers, hackers and other miscreants to launch coordinated social media campaigns and denial of service attacks. They have been credited with spreading misinformation, notoriously during the 2016 presidential election. Ahead of midterm elections in November, Twitter has made an effort to be transparent in steps it’s taking to curtail misuse of its platform, especially by foreign agents.
One of the bot accounts NBC identified (which has since been suspended) posted: “From the very beginning, false statements have tried to link the disappearance or killing of #Jamal_Khashoggi to the kingdom. This is a campaign they are waging against the kingdom.”
Twitter told Business Insider that the accounts it had suspended, while “behaving like typical spam accounts,” could not be verified as accounts backed by the Saudi government (rather than independently supporting the king).
Twitter’s problems with bot accounts is well-known. The platform flags 10 million potential spam accounts every week in an attempt to curb bots, but NBC was able to identify hundreds of accounts that spammed Twitter with identical tweets supporting the Saudi government’s position.
The flagged accounts reportedly sent out hundreds of identical tweets in droves that disputed the widely believed notion that Saudi Arabia was involved in the disappearance of Khashoggi, who is feared dead.
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