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New Twitter Rules Target Fake Accounts, Hackers

Twitter on Monday announced that it has made some changes in preparation for the upcoming midterm elections in the United States. The changes include updated rules that target fake accounts and hackers.

Social media companies have been criticized for allowing their platforms to be abused for influence campaigns ahead of the 2016 presidential election in the U.S. In response, Twitter, Facebook and Google have started taking steps to neutralize these types of operations, particularly by blocking accounts used to spread false information in an effort to manipulate users.

Twitter has now announced some updates on what it described as its “elections integrity efforts,” including changes to the Twitter rules.Twitter updates rules ahead of elections

The updated Twitter rules target three main issues, and one of them is fake accounts. The social media giant – based on feedback from users – has decided to suspend not just accounts involved in spam campaigns, but also accounts “engaged in a variety of emergent, malicious behaviors.”

The company plans on identifying fake accounts based on several factors, including the use of stock or stolen profile photos, the use of copied profile descriptions, and intentionally misleading profile information, such as location.

The second key issue targeted by the updated rules is related to “attributed activity.” Twitter will now crack down on accounts that it can reliably link to entities known to have violated its rules. This includes accounts that mimic or aim to replace previously suspended accounts.

Finally, Twitter is targeting accounts that distribute hacking-related materials. Until now, it prohibited the distribution of private information, trade secrets or materials that could cause harm to individuals. The rules have now been expanded to include users that take responsibility for a cyberattack, and ones that make threats or offer incentives to hack specific accounts.

“Commentary about a hack or hacked materials, such as news articles discussing a hack, are generally not considered a violation of this policy,” Twitter representatives wrote in a blog post.

Twitter claims its previously implemented measures are already paying off. The company says it recently removed roughly 50 accounts falsely claiming to be associated with the U.S. Republican party.

“We have also taken action on Tweets sharing media regarding elections and political issues with misleading or incorrect party affiliation information. We continue to partner closely with the RNC, DNC, and state election institutions to improve how we handle these issues,” Twitter said.

The company also pointed out that it recently closed 770 Iran-linked accounts engaging in coordinated manipulation, it challenged millions of potential spam accounts, and it removed hundreds of thousands of apps and tightened access to its API.

Twitter also announced some updates that impact users’ timeline. The company wants to ensure that users receive the most relevant information related to the elections and it’s making it easier for users to identify legitimate candidate accounts. Candidates are being offered increased support and advised to enable two-factor authentication on their account for better security.

Related: New Open Source Tools Help Find Large Twitter Botnets

Related: Bug Exposed Direct Messages of Millions of Twitter Users

Related: Twitter Suspends Nearly 1 Million Accounts Associated with Terrorism

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.