Banned Twitter accounts including Donald Trump’s will not be reinstated until at least after the US midterm elections, the platform’s new owner, Elon Musk, has said.
The Tesla CEO’s statement came as a study revealed that Twitter had removed six disinformation networks on the platform linked to China and Iran that had tweeted about the Nov. 8 election.
Musk said anyone banned from the social media platform for violating content rules will not be allowed back in until a process to do so is put in place, which would “take at least a few more weeks.”
Twitter’s new owner added that the recently announced Twitter Content Moderation Council, which will rule on reinstatement and content decisions, will include members of the civil rights community and groups facing hate-driven violence.
Musk said the figures he had spoken with included Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League, Rashad Robinson of the advocacy group Color of Change and Jessica González of the campaign group Free Press.
Those banned from Twitter include Trump, who was removed from the platform in the wake of the January 6, 2021 US Capitol riot, Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ personal account.
Meanwhile, a report by the Election Integrity Partnership, a coalition of agencies fighting digital election interference, detailed six networks linked to China and Iran that had tried to manipulate the Twitter platform ahead of the US midterms.
All six networks, which have now been taken down by Twitter, were made to appear as if they were operating outside the US. They sent out 706,000 tweets, although engagement appeared to be negligible, with nearly 600,000 of those tweets receiving zero likes.
Three of the accounts were Iran-linked and focused on progressive left-wing candidates, according to the study, while the three China-linked accounts contained content about US politicians’ comments on Taiwan and China.
One of the China-linked networks consisted primarily of right-wing accounts that referred to talking points as the “Big Lie” — a baseless theory that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. An Iran-backed account also issued endorsements for candidates in polls such as county commissioner.
A China-linked network tweeted about US politics through accounts using fake right-wing, pro-Trump US personas, using familiar language distributed by “Maga” online communities including references to rigged elections and businessman George Soros. The three most liked tweets on this network, with more than 10,000 likes each, included one congratulating Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker on his nomination.
Another network linked to China, which sent 310,000 tweets, including more than 1,100 about Joe Biden’s position in Taiwan as well as comments about the president’s age and cognitive abilities. Accounts on the network also downplayed human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang. The report added that the network made “scattered” references to the US midterms.
An Iran-linked network used accounts that mimicked the views of “resistance liberals” with hashtags in their bios, including “#Democrats #Resist #antiracist #BLM #LGBTQIA+ #Equality”. Content shared by the accounts focused on issues such as Trump and Palestine.
The research was based on data released by Twitter and was carried out by the Digital Forensic Research Lab – part of the Atlantic Council, an American research group – and Stanford University’s Internet Observatory.
“Despite the relatively small number of engagements achieved by these networks, operations like these reinforce that foreign interference is ongoing, and that platform integrity teams working alongside researchers to find, assess and disrupt these manipulative operations remain critical to stopping them while they are still small “, the study said.
The report was flagged by Twitter’s head of security and privacy, Yoel Roth, who tweeted: “This is exactly what we (or any company) should be doing in the midst of a corporate transition to reduce opportunities for insider risk. We still apply our rules at scale .”
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