Twitter publishes information ops data from Russia, Iran for research

Twitter says it found a software bug that may have sent some private messages

The data is linked to thousands of accounts thought to originate from a Russian "troll factory" known as the Internet Research Agency and Iran.

The release, which is by far the largest public cache of such misinformation activity, comprises more than nine million tweets from 3,841 Russian accounts, and one million from 770 accounts linked to Iran.

Russian Federation and Iran have both denied accusations that they attempted to influence U.S. voters on social media or through other means.

At the beginning of 2018, Twitter revealed its findings into the 2016 United States presidential election and its effects on it, widely believed to have been a key player in the unexpected electing of Donald Trump.

Now, after promising the US Congress that it was going to thoroughly investigate what happened prior to the election, Twitter is dumping millions of tweets online in huge datasets.

"We are making this data available with the goal of encouraging open research and investigation of these behaviors from researchers and academics around the world", Twitter said in a statement on its "elections integrity" site.

Twitter announced it had discovered activity related to the accounts early in the year but the micro-blogging site previously kept the full details private.

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The BBC understands Twitter's figure included only original messages and not retweets, which the social network believes accounts for the disparity.

Linvill called Twitter's disclosure a "great first step", and said the data could prove of great analytic value when it comes to understanding online influence operations but he still expressed some concern about what he called "a look back at history".

"The Iranian operation was clumsy".

However, it added: "For our part, we are committed to understanding how bad-faith actors use our services".

"The Russian trolls were non-partisan: they tried to inflame everybody, regardless of race, creed, politics, or sexual orientation", the Lab noted, "On many occasions, they pushed both sides of divisive issues".

"The Russian and Iranian troll farm operations show that American society was deeply vulnerable, not to all troll farm operations, but to troll accounts of a particular type", said a blog post from the group's Digital Forensic Research Lab.

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