22 March 2018

Will the mainstream media be deleted on Twitter tomorrow?

After March 23, Twitter could go through a kind of update to detect and suspend users with bot-like behavior. The move is designed to counter "Russian bots".

The problem is, many non-Russian users and even newspapers sharing news about the evils of Russian bots behave like Russian bots and will also get deleted if any serious action comes out of this.

They are guilty of the same behavior they accuse Russian botnets of, and new algorithms won't be able to tell the difference between them and the Russians.

If your app or service includes features which allow users to perform simultaneous actions across multiple accounts, you should make changes to bring it into compliance with this policy by March 23, 2018. Failure to comply with these rules could result in enforcement action, up to and including the suspension of associated applications and accounts. 
 Automation and the use of multiple accounts

See below examples of suspicious Twitter bot accounts sharing a BBC article about Russian bots. Their behavior makes them Russian bots, according to the article they are spamming, where it is written that "Networks of bots can be identified if multiple profiles tweet the same content almost simultaneously".

Automated content shared by anti-Russia campaign accounts and media is often about Russian bots and how to spot them, but is being shared using automation tools and fake identities. Accounts campaigning against Russian bots have therefore been behaving exactly like the alleged Russian bots by sharing the same content repeatedly, over and over, through multiple fake handles on Twitter. In fact, bots and "duplicative or substantially similar content" seem to be a favorite tactic of all political campaign groups and media organizations.

Twitter algorithms may hunt and delete the mainstream media for spam as well as Russian media

Twitter handles too much information to check if every bot account is Russian before deleting it. Twitter engineers will write algorithms to delete suspicious accounts automatically. Many of the deleted accounts may belong to the mainstream media.

Syndication by mainstream newspapers and television violates Twitter rules

Syndication is the widespread online business practice of pushing the same content through as many as hundreds of additional local publications, and is also common of television stations. It is a common practice of the mainstream media, and results in duplicated content across social media. A clear violation of the new rules at Twitter.

While Russian publications like RT and Sputnik do share very similar content, and both they and Iran's Press TV often agree, they are only copying the behavior of Western propaganda organizations. Organizations like the BBC and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp are much worse in that they repeat the same articles verbatim across a huge empire of publications and share exactly the same videos across their accounts (they all tend to have associated Twitter accounts). This is especially true when an article relates to local events and gets reprinted across a spectrum of local and national publications. The use of bots is also obvious through a brief look at the wave of sharing that always occurs without fail by numerous accounts when these publications post anything.

If algorithms are to be used to hunt this media practice down and ban accounts, many mainstream newspapers in the US and Britain will witness their Twitter accounts being suspended or suddenly deleted as possible Russian bots.

The price of hypocrisy and censorship

Twitter resents the political pressure put on it by the US and UK to thwart foreign media. It seems to be gearing up for indiscriminate censorship that will hit both sides by targeting all "suspicious" behavior, i.e. all attempts by campaigners and publications to punch above their real weight using social media.

The campaign against Russian bots is the result of pressure by myopic, frustrated journalists who don’t understand that their own media are engaged in the same behavior as the Russian media and will also be banned. It is reminiscent of how AlterNet suffered losses in revenue after Google took steps against the "fake news" AlterNet itself was calling for action against. AlterNet had called for action against fake news without realizing its own alternate views would be detected as fake news.


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