November 3, 2017 Last Updated 9:25 am

Former Twitter employee talks to Bloomberg about long history of fake account problems

‘They were more concerned with growth numbers than fake and compromised accounts’ a former engineering manager at Twitter told Selina Wang, reporter at Bloomberg News

The Bloomberg Technology blog (or news site) has posted an article I would like to call your attention to. Selina Wang of Bloomberg (right) talked to former Twitter employee Leslie Miley who confirmed much about what we know about Twitter: that has been more concerned with reporting user growth than tackling its fake account problems.

Miley, a former engineering manager at Twitter, who left to become director of engineering at Slack, before leaving Slack to work with Venture for America, said that by early 2015 Twitter knew of the problem.

“Anything we would do that would slow down signups, delete accounts, or remove accounts had to go through the growth team,” Miley said. “They were more concerned with growth numbers than fake and compromised accounts.”

What I found interesting was that the accounts Twitter found were established long before the 2016 election, and were for the most part inactive (which may be why they did little to prevent them).

I noticed this last summer when looking into all the Twitter bots slamming political posts. I could see that there was a good chance that the accounts were fake, used by Russian troll farms, but the fact that an account was established in, say, 2015, seemed to suggest otherwise.

But if these troll farms established many of these accounts long ago, let them sit, as to not call attention to them, they could they resurrect the accounts when needed. That is what I suspected, but had little proof.

“For many years, Twitter has fought a high volume of spam and spam accounts originating from Russia and Ukraine. The numbers of suspensions and other enforcement actions on such accounts number in the millions per week,” a Twitter spokeswoman told Bloomberg.

The problem of accounts used by foreign actors is a huge one, one that Facebook and Twitter are finally acknowledging. The problem is that they have known this and covered it up. This has to be investigated as customer growth is the reason these companies have such high valuations. It has been, in other words, a fraud.

From Wang’s story:

When Congress asked Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute to grade how the tech companies are responding to malicious actors on its platform, he said: “All have improved in recent years. Facebook is the best based on my experience. Google is not far behind. Twitter would be last and always resists.”

This is good work on Wang’s part, so read the whole story here.



More Twitter coverage:

The Guardian, Press Association:

MPs demand Twitter action over Russian interference in UK politics

A parliamentary committee is demanding Twitter hands over lists of Russian-related accounts that may have attempted to interfere in the UK’s democratic process.

The call from MPs on the digital, culture, media and sport committee came after Twitter told a US Congress inquiry it had detected thousands of Russian troll accounts posting material linked to American politics.

ABC News, Matthew Mosk, Mary Bruce and Benjamin Siegel:

Infamous fake Twitter account prompted social media giant to re-evaluate policies

A Russian-backed Twitter account now infamous for luring voters and Trump campaign officials into spreading divisive messages prompted the social media giant to re-evaluate its broader response to suspected Russian election interference, Twitter’s acting general counsel Sean Edgett told lawmakers this week.

The Tennessee Republican Party saw volumes of traffic on Twitter siphoned off to an impostor. The authentic Tennessee GOP Twitter feed is @TNGOP, while a Russian-backed effort shared content via @TEN_GOP. At its peak, the fake account had amassed more than 154,000 followers, while the real account collected just 13,000.

Recode, Tony Romm and Rani Molla:

The Washington Post, Miami Herald, InfoWars and other U.S. sites spread Russian propaganda from Twitter

But new data show that many news publications — from established outfits like the Post, the Miami Herald (owned by McClatchy), Buzzfeed, CBS and even Vox, to controversial alt-right hubs like InfoWars — were duped into citing some of these nefarious tweets in their coverage, perhaps unwittingly amplifying the reach of Russian propaganda.

The Post was one of the most prominent news organizations to include the bogus, misleading tweets in their stories. On at least eight occasions since early 2016, the paper cited Twitter accounts that since have been pegged as Kremlin-sponsored trolls, according to an analysis by Recode with the aid of Meltwater, a media-intelligence firm.

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