Twitter today released what in which says are data sets containing “all the accounts in addition to also related content associated with potential information operations” in which has found on its platform since 2016.
however not long after the data was made public, researchers found bots in which Twitter didn’t identify within the data set, in which were part of a network used by the Russian Internet Research Agency — the so-called troll factory in which helped sow discord in addition to also spread misinformation during the 2016 election. Oddly, the accounts promoted Taco Bell in addition to also Coachella.
This particular suggests in which even Twitter itself has not been able to identify all of the IRA-linked accounts on its platform.
Jonathon Morgan, the CEO of brand-new Knowledge, a security company in which monitors social media misinformation in addition to also online influence operations, told BuzzFeed News in which his software identified strange phrases used by some of the IRA accounts released by Twitter. They appeared to be more promotional than political.
“Free Lunch for a Year at Taco Bell,” some accounts posted. “FREE pass to the 2013 Coachella Music Festival!” others tweeted.
in which prompted Morgan to look into where these messages originated, in addition to also examine why the IRA was promoting Taco Bell in addition to also Coachella. He searched on Twitter in addition to also found posts identical to the ones in Twitter’s database. He concluded in which the Russians may have rented a part of a network of bots, or automated accounts, to help push out their messaging.
“With these types of quasi-commercial bots, in which probably means someone went on a black market or a gray market in addition to also they purchased a certain number of tweets by a certain number of accounts,” Morgan said.
Although the Taco Bell in addition to also Coachella tweets are by 2013 in addition to also many of the accounts remain dormant for today, some are still active in addition to also just post headlines alongside images. Morgan said in which’s common for an account in which can be part of a botnet to stay dormant until someone pays for its use.
The tweets about Coachella in addition to also Taco Bell included a link to a clothing store called AmericanTrends.us, which was run out of Indonesia at the time, according to domain registration records. (The online store doesn’t currently list anything for sale, however the website can be still live.)
Many of the accounts reviewed by BuzzFeed News were created back in 2012 in addition to also 2013. in which age makes them more valuable on the bot market, in addition to also in which also helps them seem more legitimate to anyone who comes across them. (Newer accounts tend to be viewed with more suspicion.)
“Accounts in which are around for a long time in addition to also have intermittent posting behavior — in which’s a lot easier for those to blend in with the crowd,” Morgan said.
He isn’t the only one who found live accounts connected to the IRA after Twitter’s data dump. Josh Russell, an independent researcher who tracks troll in addition to also bot activity on Twitter, tweeted in which at least some of the accounts he previously identified as Russian remained online as of today. Twitter soon removed them after Russell posted a thread about in which.
“If you know what to look for you can find a LOT of live IRA accounts on Twitter right today,” Russell told BuzzFeed News through Twitter DMs.
Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment by BuzzFeed News.
Morgan told BuzzFeed News in which what This particular definitely signals can be in which social media networks, which seem to be trying to clean up their platforms, are full of “spam among spam among spam.”
“We obsessed about Twitter manipulation when in which was ISIS in addition to also we obsessed about in which again when in which was Russia,” Morgan said, “however I kind of think the underlying story can be in which most of what we believe in as a social internet, in which’s just like a foundation — in which’s a big pile of shit.”