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Twitter Suspends Accounts Engaged in Manipulation

Twitter this week announced the suspension of a total of 770 accounts for “engaging in coordinated manipulation.”

The suspensions were performed in two waves. One last week, when the social networking platform purged 284 accounts, many of which supposedly originated from Iran, and another this week, when 486 more accounts were kicked for the same reason.

“As with prior investigations, we are committed to engaging with other companies and relevant law enforcement entities. Our goal is to assist investigations into these activities and where possible, we will provide the public with transparency and context on our efforts,” Twitter noted last week.

The micro-blogging platform took action on the accounts after FireEye published a report detailing a large campaign conducted out of Iran focused on influencing the opinions of people in the United States and other countries around the world.

Active since at least 2017, the campaign focuses on anti-Israel, anti-Saudi, and pro-Palestine topics, but also included the distribution of stories regarding U.S. policies favorable to Iran, such as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal.

The report triggered reactions from large Internet companies, including Facebook and Google. The former removed 652 pages, groups, and accounts suspected of being tied to Russia and Iran, while the latter blocked 39 YouTube channels and disabled six Blogger and 13 Google+ accounts.

“Since our initial suspensions last Tuesday, we have continued our investigation, further building our understanding of these networks. In addition, we suspended an additional 486 accounts for violating the policies outlined last week. This brings the total suspended to 770,” Twitter said on Tuesday.

The social platform also revealed that fewer than 100 of the 770 suspended accounts claimed to be located in the United States, and many were sharing divisive social commentary. These accounts, however, had thousands of followers, on average.

“We identified one advertiser from the newly suspended set that ran $30 in ads in 2017. Those ads did not target the U.S. and the billing address was located outside of Iran. We remain engaged with law enforcement and our peer companies on this issue,” Twitter also said.

In June, Twitter announced a new process designed to improve the detection of spam accounts and bots and also revealed updates to its sign-up process to make it more difficult to register spam accounts. In early August, Duo Security announced a new tool capable of detecting large Twitter botnets.

Related: FireEye: Tech Firms' Secret Weapon Against Disinformation

Related: Google Blocks Accounts in 'Influence Operation' Linked to Iran

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