Turkey has accused Twitter of protecting “terrorists” following the social media platform’s move to close thousands of accounts linked to President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party.
Twitter on Thursday said it removed more than 180,000 accounts tied to influence operations that deceptively spread messages favorable to the Chinese, Russian, and Turkish governments.
Twitter, along with researchers who analyzed the accounts, said the networks were largely an echo chamber of fake accounts without much further traction.
The company suspended a core network of 23,750 highly active accounts, as well as a larger network of about 150,000 “amplifier” accounts used to boost the core accounts’ content for Beijing’s interests, including spreading false information on the coronavirus outbreak.
The company also removed two state-backed operations which it attributed to Russia and Turkey, both focused on domestic audiences.
Twitter took down 7,340 accounts primarily targeted at domestic audiences within Turkey, disclosing all their posts and profiles to the archive.
“The collection of fake and compromised accounts was being used to amplify political narratives favorable to the AK Party, and demonstrated strong support for President Erdogan,” the company statement read.
The company’s technical analysis points to the youth wing of the party according to the statement.
Twitter said that the network it discloses included accounts critical to President Erdogan but this is due to the accounts being hacked by the pro-Erdogan network.
The company’s statement added that Ankara-backed accounts were also used for commercial activities, such as cryptocurrency-related spam.
Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said on his Twitter account that Twitter’s decision was “politically motivated.” He blamed the social media giant for “protecting” the groups Ankara deems terrorist organizations.
Statement regarding Twitter's decision to suspend accounts in Turkey and the company's allegations: pic.twitter.com/mi9abYDWEE
— Fahrettin Altun (@fahrettinaltun) June 12, 2020
Keeping in mind the most recent controversy surrounding Twitter in the United States, the company’s attempts to portray the Republic of Turkey in a certain political light, its eagerness to support and promote black propaganda by anti-Turkey entities, including PKK and FETÖ, and its intention to redesign Turkish politics are quite obvious,” Altun said referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the network of the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Twitter removes Russian and Chinese accounts
Removed Russian-backed accounts’ activities included “promoting the United Russia party and attacking political dissidents.” Twitter disclosed all 1,152 accounts and associated media through its public archive.
The Chinese network had links to an earlier state-backed operation dismantled last year by Twitter, Facebook, and Google’s YouTube that had been pushing misleading narratives about political dynamics in Hong Kong, the company said.
The new operation likewise focused heavily on Hong Kong, but also promoted messages about the coronavirus pandemic, exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, and Taiwan, the researchers said.
Twitter, along with other American social media companies such as Facebook and Instagram, is blocked in China.
However, over the past year, a large number of Chinese diplomats and diplomatic missions set up Twitter or Facebook accounts, often using them to attack Beijing’s critics around the world.
Last month, Twitter flagged a tweet written in March by a Chinese government spokesman that suggested the U.S. military brought the novel coronavirus to China, as the social media platform ramps up fact-checking of posts.