Twitter gives profile names of Russian-linked accounts to Senate investigators

Posted at 3:26 PM, Oct 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-14 15:40:51-04

Twitter has given staff of the Senate intelligence committee profile names of 201 accounts linked to Russian efforts at interfering in last year’s election, two sources with knowledge of the matter confirm to CNN.

Investigators have now asked Twitter for the posts from these accounts, but as of Friday, they have not yet received word from Twitter on that front the sources said.

The handover, which The Associated Press first reported, occurred this week.

Twitter last month informed Congress that it removed roughly 200 accounts from its service after determining they were linked to Russia and sought to interfere in American politics.

“Of the roughly 450 accounts that Facebook recently shared as a part of their review, we concluded that 22 had corresponding accounts on Twitter. All of those identified accounts had already been or immediately were suspended from Twitter for breaking our rules,” Twitter announced in a blog post last month. “In addition, from those accounts we found an additional 179 related or linked accounts, and took action on the ones we found in violation of our rules.”

The social media company met with the Senate and House intelligence committees on September 28 amid the ongoing congressional investigations into Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential campaign, including through social media.

In that meeting, Twitter representatives informed congressional staff that it had shut down the 200 accounts after connecting them to Facebook accounts that had been suspended because they were linked to a Russian troll farm.

As with the Facebook accounts, the Twitter accounts sought to amplify political discord by highlighting hot-button political issues like race and immigration.

Some of the tweets from these accounts promoted anti-Hillary Clinton stories, a source with knowledge of the matter said. The US intelligence community believes one reason Russia meddled in the election was to damage Clinton’s chances of winning.

Twitter has not provided details about the accounts, but research from independent groups monitoring Twitter provides some insight into how Russian-linked accounts used the social media platform in an attempt to amplify America’s political divisions.

The Alliance for Securing Democracy, an initiative by the public policy group German Marshall Fund, has an ongoing review of 600 Twitter accounts linked to Russia and seeking to influence U.S. politics. In the last week, the group says, one-quarter of the stories promoted by those accounts had a strong anti-American theme, while roughly 15% were anti-Clinton.

Those findings are largely consistent with what Facebook has disclosed to Congress about the Facebook ads bought by Russian-backed accounts.