Tuesday October 16th, 2018 1:49AM

Senator slams Twitter over suspected accounts tied to Russia

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — Social media giant Twitter told congressional investigators it has suspended at least two dozen accounts that may have been tied to Russia, but the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee was anything but satisfied.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner said Twitter's explanations of its actions against Russia-linked accounts were "deeply disappointing," and he suggested the company doesn't understand the seriousness of Congress' investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Warner made the comments after company executives met behind closed doors with staff members of both the Senate and House intelligence committees for several hours.

Warner said the information Twitter shared "was frankly inadequate on almost every level."

The disclosures by Twitter follow Facebook revelations that some 3,000 ads were purchased by entities with likely ties to Russia and as congressional investigators are examining the spread of false news stories and propaganda on social media during the campaign.

The committees have been investigating Russia's election meddling and any possible coordination with associates of Republican Donald Trump in his campaign against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. They have specifically been looking at Twitter and Facebook and their roles in the spread of misinformation and propaganda during the campaign.

Twitter said in a blog post that it found 22 accounts corresponding to about 450 Facebook accounts that were likely operated out of Russia and pushed divisive social and political issues during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Facebook has said those accounts were responsible for buying about 3,000 ads worth about $100,000.

Twitter says it also found an additional 179 related accounts and took action against ones that violated its rules. The company didn't specify how many of those accounts were suspended or the type of action taken. A person familiar with Twitter's response to the accounts says that most of those accounts were found to have violated the platform's rules. The person did not know if all 179 had been suspended from the service. The person spoke only on condition of anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to discuss the information publicly.

Warner said that Twitter's findings were merely "derivative" of Facebook's work, and "showed an enormous lack of understanding from the Twitter team of how serious this issue is, the threat it poses to democratic institutions."

He said the meeting underscored the need for the company to come forward in a public hearing. Both the House and Senate intelligence panels are inviting Twitter, Facebook and Google to testify this fall.

Thursday's closed meetings lasted several hours. Twitter's executives included Colin Crowell, a vice president of public policy, government and corporate philanthropy; Carlos Monje, director of public policy and philanthropy; attorney Elizabeth Banker, and Emily Horne, global policy communications director.

Twitter said it also provided congressional investigators with a "roundup" of ads from accounts used by Russia's state-sponsored news network, RT. The company said in a blog post that RT spent $274,100 on ads targeted to markets in the U.S. during 2016. Twitter provided the ads, which came from three handles used by RT, to the congressional investigators. Most tweets from the accounts promoted news stories.

In its blog post, Twitter said it has worked harder to detect and prevent spam and "malicious automation." The company said it removed tweets that were attempting to suppress legitimate votes by telling people they could vote for Clinton by texting. The company said that its automated systems catch more than 3.2 million suspicious accounts globally per week, which is more than double the amount the company detected this time last year.

The top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, California Rep. Adam Schiff, showed less frustration after his own panel's staff was briefed by Twitter, saying the meeting was "good but preliminary."

"I think there are challenges to Twitter in its forensic investigation because Twitter users don't provide the same background information that Facebook users do," Schiff said. "At the same time I don't think we've more than scratched the surface in terms of our understanding how the Russians may have used that platform."

Unlike Facebook, which has said phony accounts on its platform attempted to stir up divisiveness in the election, Twitter has remained mostly silent. Twitter allows users to register anonymously and has more public accounts than Facebook. Many lawmakers have expressed concerns about the proliferation of the anonymous "bots."

Lawmakers have been interested in Twitter's potential vulnerabilities in terms of tracing potential foreign intrusions. There have been concerns that the company doesn't move quickly enough to remove posts and isn't able to track the original postings that were spread and retweeted.

Twitter, Facebook and Google haven't yet said whether they will accept the invitations to testify publicly before both intelligence panels. The House committee is planning a hearing in October and the Senate committee has invited witnesses to appear on Nov. 1.

Facebook acknowledged in earlier briefings with the intelligence panels that the hundreds of phony Facebook accounts, likely run from Russia, spent about $100,000 on ads aimed at stirring up divisive issues such as gun control and race relations during the 2016 campaign.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last week that the company will provide congressional investigators with the contents of the 3,000 ads bought by a Russian agency, and he pledged to make political advertising on its platform more transparent.


Associated Press writers Matthew Daly and Tom LoBianco contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Elections - Campaigns, AP Technology News
© Copyright 2018
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Senator slams Twitter over suspected accounts tied to Russia
Democratic senator criticizes Twitter over its explanation of suspected accounts tied to Russia
3:50AM ( 7 minutes ago )
Price says he's reimbursing costs for his private flights
Health secretary says he's paying out of his own pocket nearly $52,000 to cover the cost of his travel on charter flights
3:40AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Tillerson carries full agenda as he prepares to visit China
Tillerson's agenda for visiting China is top heavy with North Korea, trade issues and preparing for Trump's trip in November
3:38AM ( 19 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: HHS chief says he'll pay back charter costs
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price says he'll write a personal check to reimburse taxpayers for the cost of his travel on charter flights taken on government business
1:59AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Trump praises Puerto Rico relief efforts
The Trump administration says its relief efforts in Puerto Rico are succeeding, but people on the island say help is scarce and disorganized while food supplies are dwindling in some remote towns eight days after Hurricane Maria
1:57AM ( 2 hours ago )
Wray installed as FBI director; Trump absent at ceremony
Chris Wray has been formally installed as the new FBI director, replacing James Comey
10:14PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Senator: Twitter's actions on Russia-linked accounts lacking
Social media giant Twitter told congressional investigators Thursday that the company had suspended at least two dozen accounts that may have been tied to Russia
7:17PM ( 8 hours ago )
The Latest: Senate Dem not impressed with Twitter briefing
The ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee says a closed-door presentation by executives from social media giant Twitter was "deeply disappointing."
5:20PM ( 10 hours ago )
Speaker Ryan seeks _ and needs _ a win as he sells tax plan
House Speaker Paul Ryan is embarking on the endeavor that's animated his career, and that now confronts him as a make-or-break political challenge: getting an ambitious tax overhaul plan passed into law
4:50PM ( 11 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Twitter execs talk to House, Senate in Russia probe
Social media giant Twitter is visiting Capitol Hill Thursday as part of the House and Senate investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections
3:55PM ( 12 hours ago )
Houston has no Hispanics in Congress, thanks to Gene Green
Houston is America's largest Hispanic city without a Hispanic member of the U.S. House
11:11AM ( 16 hours ago )
Kenya opposition leader to organize protests; talks flop
Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga announced he will organize protests to push for reforms to the electoral commission and to stop the ruling party from removing safeguards against electoral fraud, ahead of fresh presidential elections
10:57AM ( 17 hours ago )
AP Elections
China sets target for electric car quota but delays rollout
China has raised its first-year target for a quota system that will require all automakers to contribute to electric car development but delayed its rollout to 2019
1:48AM ( 2 hours ago )
Harvey may not have dealt devastating blow to Texas ranchers
Neither federal nor state officials have yet calculated how much cattle were killed during Harvey and cow victims may eventually number thousands
1:19AM ( 2 hours ago )
Farmers say Maria wrecked bright spot of Puerto Rico economy
Farmers wonder if Puerto Rico's small but diverse agricultural sector can recover from the sucker punch delivered to one of the island's economic bright spots by Hurricane Maria
1:10AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
Tree company to pay record fine for immigration practices
A suburban Philadelphia company that trims trees around power lines throughout the United States will pay a record fine after pleading guilty in a scheme to employ people in the country illegally
6:26PM ( 9 hours ago )
FDA approves Lilly pill for common advanced breast cancer
U.S. regulators have approved a new medicine for treating adults with a common type of breast cancer that has spread
6:20PM ( 9 hours ago )
TV-gadget maker Roku's stock soars after IPO raises $219M
Shares of Roku, an early player in streaming-video gadgets, are soaring after its initial public offering of stock raised $219 million
5:02PM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
The Latest: Trump warns Indiana senator to support tax plan
President Donald Trump is issuing a warning shot to Indiana's Democratic senator: Support my tax overhaul or I'll campaign against you next year
4:15PM ( 1 day ago )
Moore's path to victory in Alabama: God, guns and defiance
Roy Moore's path to victory in Alabama: God, guns and defiance
2:57PM ( 1 day ago )
Corker retirement sets off Tennessee succession speculation
Corker's surprise retirement from US Senate sets off frenzy of speculation over succession
2:10PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
Delivery by drone: Switzerland tests it in populated areas
Drones will help deliver toothbrushes, deodorant and smartphones to Swiss homes this fall as part of a pilot project, the first of its kind over a densely populated area
6:26PM ( 9 hours ago )
No assembly required? Ikea to buy services site TaskRabbit
Ikea is making moves so you don't have to assemble a sofa or bookcase yourself
1:51PM ( 14 hours ago )
Facebook, Twitter, Google invited to public hearings
The House and Senate intelligence committees have invited tech giants Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet _ the parent company of Google _ to appear for public hearings as part of their investigations into Russia's interference in the 2016 election
8:26PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Technology News
Price says he's reimbursing costs for his private flights
Health secretary says he's paying out of his own pocket nearly $52,000 to cover the cost of his travel on charter flights
3:40AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Tillerson carries full agenda as he prepares to visit China
Tillerson's agenda for visiting China is top heavy with North Korea, trade issues and preparing for Trump's trip in November
3:38AM ( 20 minutes ago )
2 days, 2 dangerous rock falls at Yosemite National Park
Two straight days of massive and dangerous rock falls at Yosemite National Park have left one person dead, two injured and mountain climbers stunned
3:32AM ( 26 minutes ago )
Asian shares slightly higher, though Japan is exception
Asian shares are slightly higher following a record high close on Wall Street, though Japan was the exception
3:31AM ( 27 minutes ago )
The Latest: Yosemite IDs British man killed by rock fall
Yosemite National Park has identified the British tourist killed by a massive rock fall
2:58AM ( 1 hour ago )