San Francisco, Dec 21 (IANS) Twitter has banned 5,929 accounts which were part of a significant state-backed information operation on its platform originating in Saudi Arabia.
These accounts represented the core portion of a larger network of more than 88,000 accounts engaged in spammy behaviour across a wide range of topics.
Twitter said on Friday that it has permanently suspended all of these accounts from its platform.
“In order to protect the privacy of potentially compromised accounts repurposed to engage in platform manipulation, and in response to researcher feedback requesting that we pre-filter unrelated spam, we have not disclosed data for all 88,000 accounts,” Twitter said in a statement.
“Primarily, accounts were amplifying messages favourable to Saudi authorities, mainly through inauthentic engagement tactics such as aggressive liking, retweeting and replying,” the platform said in a blog post.
The latest move follows Twitter’s action in September in which, the platform banned seven Saudi accounts, including that of a former royal adviser, for similar co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour.
The Saudi government was yet to make a statement on Twitter’s action.
While the majority of the content from this network was in Arabic, a portion of it related to events relevant to Western audiences, including amplification of discussion around sanctions in Iran and appearances by the Saudi government officials in Western media, said Twitter.
“Our investigations have traced the source of the coordinated activity to Smaat, a social media marketing and management company based in Saudi Arabia,’ it added.
Smaat appears to have created, purchased, and/or managed these accounts on behalf of a” but not necessarily with the knowledge of a” their clients.
Twitter said it has permanently suspended Smaat’s account, as well as the Twitter accounts of Smaat’s senior executives.
“Smaat managed a range of Twitter accounts for high-profile individuals, as well as many government departments in Saudi Arabia”.
Many of the accounts involved in the overall network employed third-party automated tools in order to amplify non-political content at high volumes.