- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 3, 2018

Twitter removed more than 10,000 automated accounts, or “bots,” for posting messages purportedly sent by Democrats discouraging people from voting in next week’s midterm races, Reuters reported Friday.

The suspicious tweets were initially spotted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a group that supports party candidates seeking terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, and subsequently brought them to Twitter’s attention prior to their being removed in late September and early October, the report said.

“We took action on relevant accounts and activity on Twitter,” a Twitter spokesperson told Reuters.

The tweets were detected as the results of an effort initiated earlier this year by Democrats in the wake of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and other candidates being targeted during the 2016 election by bots, hackers and internet trolls traced to the Russian government, three people familiar with the DCCC’s operation told Reuters.

Using publicly available tools known as “Hoaxley” and “Botometer,” the DCCC developed a system for detecting and reporting suspected automated social media activity, Democratic sources told Reuters.

Among the posts identified by the DCCC’s system were tweets that specifically discouraged Democratic men from voting in the Nov. 6 midterms, “by arguing that their ballots would drown out those cast by women,” the report said.

The DCCC’s flagging ultimately resulted in Twitter purging more than 10,000 accounts from the social networking service, Reuters reported, citing three unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

“For the election this year we have established open lines of communication and direct, easy escalation paths for state election officials, DHS and campaign organizations from both major parties,” a Twitter spokesperson told The Washington Times. “Our singular goal is to enforce our policies vigorously and protect conversational health on our service.

“We removed a series of accounts for engaging in attempts to share disinformation in an automated fashion — a violation of our policies. We stopped this quickly and at its source,” the Twitter spokesperson continued.

In addition to hacking Democratic targets including the DCCC and leaking internal documents leaked during the 2016 race, Russian operatives weaponized Twitter and other social media platforms to sow discord and attack Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, according to U.S. officials. Moscow has denied the allegations.

Twitter previously said it detected a total of 50,258 automated accounts that were identified as Russian-linked and responsible for tweeting election-related content during the 2016 race.

Russians employed by the Internet Research Agency, a company operated by an oligarch and friend of President Vladimir Putin, also meddled in the race by spreading disinformation and stirring debate on social networking services, U.S. officials said previously. Twitter ultimately traced their activities during the 2016 election to 3,841 accounts responsible for engaging with roughly 1.4 million users.

“Activity that attempts to manipulate or disrupt Twitter’s service is not allowed. We remove this when we see it,” Twitter said earlier this week.

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