Twitter said it has "labeled or removed" more than 50,000 pieces of content that broke its policy on manipulated media in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the company shared in a blog post today. Additionally, the platform removed roughly 75,000 accounts for “inauthentic behavior” and spam. Though this number encompassed users not specifically engaged in war propaganda, it included accounts associated with #IStandWithPutin, a hashtag that went viral last month thanks to a coordinated campaign of fake accounts.
Unlike previous times where a single government or a state information campaign was to blame, Twitter found a wide range of actors were responsible for manipulating the platform, such as those recirculating old conflict footage as if it were new, as well as the many Ukraine-related fundraising scams that have cropped up in the wake of the invasion.
Last month Twitter also promised to not amplify any tweets from users that included links to state-affiliated media (a step-up from its old policy, which was not to amplify or promote tweets that were only directly from accounts of the state-affiliated media). Since February 28th, Twitter says it has labeled more than 61,000 unique tweets that included links to state-run media. It estimates doing so reduced the reach of these tweets by around 30 percent.
Twitter has allowed Kremlin-backed media like RT and Sputnik (as well as other state-run media) to continue to operate their verified accounts, but labels and accordingly demotes what the outlets tweet. Both propaganda outlets are also banned from advertising on Twitter.
Misinformation about the invasion of Ukraine has thrived on social media, especially in the form of misleading photos and video. The government of Russia has blocked access to most Western-operated platforms for civilians (including Google, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok), largely as a way to suppress dissent amongst its own people. But the Kremlin’s own disinformation campaigns on these platforms appear to continue apace. A Russia-backed theory that the U.S. is helping Ukraine build bioweapons was further amplified by Chinese state media, as well as far-right and right-wing figures in the United States.