Twitter has intensified the campaign against fake and suspicious accounts, suspending more than 1 million a day in recent months, a major shift to lessen the flow of disinformation on the platform, according to data obtained by The Washington Post.
The rate of account suspensions, which Twitter confirmed to The Post, has more than doubled since October, when the company revealed under congressional pressure how Russia used fake accounts to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.
According to the data report, Twitter suspended more than 70 million accounts in May and June, and the pace has continued in July.
A rare decline in the number of monthly users in the second quarter will come as a result of the aggressive removal of unwanted accounts.
Despite the risk of company user growth, Twitter’s growing battle against bots and trolls part of the ongoing fallout from Russia’s disinformation offensive during the 2016 presidential campaign, when a St. Petersburg-based troll factory was able to use some of America’s most prominent technology platforms to deceive voters on a mass scale to exacerbate social and political tensions.
The extent of account suspensions, which has not previously been reported, is one of several recent actions by Twitter to limit the influence of people it says are abusing its platform. The changes, which were the subject of internal debate, reflect a philosophical shift for Twitter.
Twitter’s xecutives previously resisted the close monitoring of misbehavior more aggressively, for a time even referring to themselves as “the free speech wing of the free speech party.”
Twitter’s Vice President for Trust and Safety Del Harvey said in an interview this week the company is changing the calculus between promoting public discourse and preserving safety. She added that Twitter only recently was able to dedicate the resources and develop the technical capabilities to target malicious behavior in this way.
Twitter was not alone among tech companies in failing to adequately anticipate and combat Russian disinformation, which intelligence agencies concluded was part of the Kremlin’s attempt to help elect Republican Donald Trump, damage Democrat Hillary Clinton and undermine the faith of Americans in their political system.