Fox Fellow Clint Watts on Responses to Russian Influence Campaigns
The most serious issue for Twitter is that its platform is perfectly suited for anonymous propaganda campaigns. It’s long been known that people can create so-called Twitter bot armies that can be automated to push a particular message, spread disinformation, or boost an existing message in an effort to increase its reach. During testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in March, experts described how Twitter became one of the key facilitators of the Russian operation. During the testimony, Thomas Rid, a cyber security expert, told the committee that Twitter was one of several “unwitting agents” in the Russian operation due to the “fully automated bots as well as semi-automated spam and trolling accounts [that] make up a sizeable part of Twitter’s active user base.”
Clint Watts, a former FBI agent who has tracked the Russian influence campaign, told the New York Times earlier this month that Facebook appears to have made some efforts to address concerns about foreign actors using it as a launching pad for disinformation campaigns, but Twitter hasn’t. “Bots have only spread since the election,” he said. USA Today reported last week that social media is a “red-hot” focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible ties between associates of President Trump and Russian election meddling.