Russia Election Investigation Sets Their Eyes on Twitter

Senate Intelligence Committee investigators are planning to ask Twitter representatives today whether misinformation spread by Russian accounts were made into real news stores and were targeting Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton, and whether or not the social network took steps to stop the spread of false news.

According to Politico, Hillary Clinton and her campaign battled a wave of Twitter attacks during the 2016 election and it is believed it was orchestrated by Russian bots.

Initially, Facebook was the first target for congressional investigation, given the social network’s massive reach. Now Twitter has become a focal point of the INtelligence Committee because of the networks’ influence in amplifying news and distributing content, Politico reports.

On Thursday, a closed-door briefing in the Senate will be the next move by federal investigators to investigate the social network’s impact on the 2016 Presidential election.

Twitter Black History Month
CHESHIRE, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 15, 2016: Twitter on screen of an NVidia Shield Android Tablet (Paul Stringer / Shutterstock, Inc.)

But Twitter is not alone. Senate investigators are reportedly inviting Google, Twitter, and Facebook to testify publicly on November 1st about attempts by Russian government officials to influence the presidential race.

Politico reported that the Russian use of Twitter is “consistent” with what American intelligence groups found in their investigation of the election, which found Russia had interfered with the presidential election.

It is important to understand how bots could have spread misinformation on the social network. Researchers at the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute discovered that an estimated 400,000 bots were being used during the election, which represented nearly 1 out of 5 of all election-related tweets.

In fact, as we reported earlier this year, researchers were able to discover 350,000 twitter bots. Researchers from the Department of Computer Sceience, at the University Colelge London, found a secret bot network with over 350,000 Twiter bots. The study reported the creator of the bots had the ability to control thousands of bots.

“Here we report our discovery of the Star Wars botnet with more than 350k bots. We show these bots were generated and centrally controlled by a botmaster,” Juan Echeverria and Shi Zhou, the lead researchers in the study explained.

Researchers went on to explain that a massive network of Twitter bots have the ability to “spam, manipulate public opinion” and even alter research data uses Twitter’s API. In fact, one of the biggest problems with using Twitter as a data source is the fact it can be easily skewed by bots, Echeverria and Zhou reported in their study.