Twitter yanks thousands of fake accounts originating in Iran, Russia and Venezuela

/ CBS News

Social media giant Twitter said it has removed thousands of accounts believed to have ties to Iran, Russia and Venezuela as part of its aggressive campaign against malicious and suspicious accounts. In a blog post from Twitter's head of site integrity, Twitter said it removed the accounts for spreading disinformation on its site in an effort to target the 2018 midterm elections.

Those removals marked the social media site's latest efforts to prevent disinformation campaigns similar to ones carried out by the Russian Internet Research Agency during the 2016 campaign to influence voters to support then-candidate Donald Trump.

The site maintains that while it identified "much less platform manipulation from bad-faith actors located abroad" compared to the 2016 effort, malicious accounts were found nonetheless.

"The majority of these accounts were proactively suspended in advance of Election Day due to the increasingly robust nature of our technology and internal tooling for identifying platform manipulation," wrote Carlos Monje Jr., Twitter's Director of Public Policy.

As was the case in 2016, those operating the accounts sowed division online and posted on key hot-button political issues during the 2018 midterm elections.

Twitter said in its most recent action, it removed 418 accounts originating in Russia, 764 accounts originating in Venezuela and 2,600 originating in Iran.

The move comes the same day that Facebook announced that it has removed multiple pages, groups and accounts engaged in "coordinated inauthentic behavior" on its site and on its photo-sharing platform, Instagram.

"This activity was directed from Iran, in some cases repurposing Iranian state media content, and engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior targeting people across the world, although more heavily in the Middle East and South Asia," Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy, said during a call with reporters on Thursday.

"These were interconnected and localized operations, which used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing," he said.

Facebook said the account removals were the direct result of an industry partnership with Twitter, which had previously identified similar content, flagged it to Facebook, and facilitated the latest purge of suspious accounts.

"This is an encouraging example of the type of collaboration we're working to build across the industry," said Gleicher said in a call with reporters.

It was not immediately clear what kind of content was being disseminated to U.S. audiences; Facebook indicated the main target regions were EU and the Middle East, but did not specify if any content focused on the nuclear deal or the Trump administration. It did say some content tended to focus on U.S. military engagement in overseas conflicts.

Facebook said it was investigating Twitter's reported removals and would "come back when we have something to announce," citing different investigatory policies and standards.

CBS News' Olivia Gazis contributed to this report.

First published on January 31, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Twitter yanks thousands of fake accounts

The removals marked the social media site's latest efforts to prevent disinformation campaigns

updated 1M ago

Catholic leaders in Texas name 286 accused of abusing children

Fourteen dioceses in Texas named those credibly accused of abuse, the most since an explosive grand jury report last year in Pennsylvania

updated 8M ago

Amazon reports third record quarterly profit in a row

Amazon's data centers and advertising service are becoming increasingly important streams of money for the online giant

updated 35M ago

Boy collects coats to help those in need

Sandro's Coat Rack has donated close to 1,000 coats to homeless people

updated 36M ago

What are "frost quakes"? The polar vortex could be causing them

People in the Midwest reported hearing loud booms or cracking sounds as temperatures plunged in the region

updated 43M ago

Twitter yanks thousands of fake accounts

The removals marked the social media site's latest efforts to prevent disinformation campaigns

updated 1M ago

Immigrants drove hours for fake, ICE-issued court dates

"For someone who's facing deportation, playing around with court dates is literally playing around with their life"

updated 53M ago

Senate rebukes Trump's planned military drawdowns

In a rare move, a majority of the Republican-led Senate rebuked the president's planned drawdowns in Afghanistan and Syria

1H ago

Trump optimistic on possible China trade deal

The administration has given a March 1 deadline for talks with China

1H ago

Ralph Northam addresses controversial abortion comments

Northam has been under fire for his description of late-term abortions

2H ago

29 children and babies die from cold as families seek shelter: Report

"Children are dying from hypothermia as their families flee to safety," said Elizabeth Hoff, WHO representative in Syria.

4H ago

"Disturbing" discovery: Giant hole found under Antarctica glacier

It is growing at an "explosive" rate that surprised researchers, NASA says

3H ago

Trump’s stance on Venezuela garners rare bipartisan support in Congress

"There are always going to be issues on which we agree," Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala told CBS News

5H ago

Europeans poised to roll out "vehicle" to dodge Iran sanctions

EU says it's "moving in the same direction" as U.S. on Iran's regional influence and military development, but it wants to keep the nuclear deal alive

7H ago

Venezuela power struggle hinges on Maduro's military

So far embattled president's commanders are standing by him, but pressure is mounting fast

3H ago

Mindfulness helped Kathy Bates lose 60 pounds

The 70-year-old actress said she learned about mindfulness from her niece – and has never felt better

4H ago

"Mobituaries": Who was the first African American major leaguer? Not Jackie Robinson

They made history. So, why don't we know their names?

6H ago

CBS All Access' "Twilight Zone" reboot gets premiere date

"Twilight Zone" fans can soon enter the fifth dimension all over again

22H ago

Persons of interest sought in alleged Jussie Smollett attack

Smollett told police he was attacked by two white men early Tuesday who allegedly yelled "this is MAGA country"

19H ago

The Beatles' historic final concert held on rooftop 50 years ago

By the time they performed, it had been more than two years since their last live show

22H ago

What are "frost quakes"? The polar vortex could be causing them

People in the Midwest reported hearing loud booms or cracking sounds as temperatures plunged in the region

updated 43M ago

Climate change skeptics live where it hurts economy most: study

Americans who least believe in climate change live where its effects are forecast to hurt most, Brookings Institution says

3H ago

These states could move to 100% renewable power

They represent 42% of the U.S. population and a quarter of its economic output — and shift can happen within 25 years

2H ago

Dad: Hacker spoke to baby, taunted me, turned up thermostat

Hacker accessed Illinois family's Nest security cameras, father says

4H ago

"Disturbing" discovery: Giant hole found under Antarctica glacier

It is growing at an "explosive" rate that surprised researchers, NASA says

3H ago

Mindfulness helped Kathy Bates lose 60 pounds

The 70-year-old actress said she learned about mindfulness from her niece – and has never felt better

4H ago

Woman with dementia dumped outside nursing home, family says

Security footage shows the elderly woman attempting to get inside in the middle of the night after being discharged from the hospital

3H ago

Drugmaker doubles recall of infant ibuprofen

Some batches found with overly high concentrations of the drug, with infants especially vulnerable to adverse effects

9H ago

Woman uses DNA test, finds sperm donor — and pays a "devastating" price

A sperm bank is threatening to sue an Oregon woman who contacted her daughter's biological father after using an at-home DNA test

1H ago

Company accused of fueling opioid crisis wanted to capitalize on treatment: report

ProPublica specifically names Kathe Sackler as being involved with a secretive project called "Project Tango"

9H ago

Amazon reports third record quarterly profit in a row

Amazon's data centers and advertising service are becoming increasingly important streams of money for the online giant

updated 35M ago

Stocks post best January since 1987, as S&P 500 climbs 7.9%

Trading in the year's first month marks a sharp reversal from December, which was the worst month since 1931

1H ago

Elizabeth Warren blasts billionaire's bid for bankrupt Sears

Massachusetts senator calls out Eddie Lampert's commitment to workers, given his "history of slashing jobs"

updated 55M ago

Climate change skeptics live where it hurts economy most: study

Americans who least believe in climate change live where its effects are forecast to hurt most, Brookings Institution says

3H ago

These states could move to 100% renewable power

They represent 42% of the U.S. population and a quarter of its economic output — and shift can happen within 25 years

2H ago

U.S. border agency says it's made biggest-ever fentanyl bust

Border officials say they seized nearly 254 pounds of the deadly synthetic opioid with a street value of $3.5 million

updated 50M ago

Police show more video in shooting of boy with airsoft gun

14-year-old Antonio Arce was fatally shot as he ran away from a Tempe police officer responding to a vehicle burglary

3H ago

Nurse indicted on charges of raping incapacitated woman

Nathan Sutherland is expected to enter a plea to the charges at an arraignment hearing next week

2H ago

Phony pharmacist gave out 745,000 prescriptions, authorities say

She posed as a pharmacist and pharmacy manager for years in three California Walgreens stores, a state investigation finds

8H ago

Cleveland family says school should've flagged slain girl's absence sooner

Alianna DeFreeze, 14, was abducted on her way to school; her family is suing because they weren't notified about her absence quick enough

20H ago  Original Article