#TrollTracker: Twitter Troll Farm Archives
Part One — Seven key take aways from a comprehensive archive of known Russian and Iranian troll operations
On October 17, Twitter released an archive of over ten million tweets posted by accounts from 2013 through 2018. Of the total, over nine million tweets were attributable to 3,800 accounts affiliated with the Internet Research Agency, also known as Russia’s infamous St. Petersburg troll factory. Over one million tweets were attributable to 770 accounts, originating from Iran.
Each set is included in the same archive; however, because the actors and activity were separate, our analysis was conducted accordingly.
In an effort to promote shared understanding of the vulnerabilities exploited by various types on online influence operations, as well as social media’s role in democracy, @DFRlab had a brief advance opportunity to analyze the nearly complete archive.
In a release, Twitter noted:
In line with our strong principles of transparency and with the goal of improving understanding of foreign influence and information campaigns, we are releasing the full, comprehensive archives of the Tweets and media that are connected with these two previously disclosed and potentially state-backed operations on our service.
A majority of accounts disclosed have been reported or archived before.
An enormous amount of effort has been done by researchers, journalists (examples here and here), policy makers, and Twitter itself. With regard to broader understanding about the IRA, much credit is due to investigative journalists in Russia, who reported on the purpose and operations well before it caught international attentions. The same can be said of FireEye’s analysis of Iranian websites and associated social media activity.
What sets this archive apart is Twitter’s consolidation and release of all accounts the platform maintains high confidence are associated with the Russian Internet Research Agency and separate Iranian accounts.
These are the seven most important points to know about the Russian and Iranian troll farm operations. Parts two, three, and four of this series take deep dives into each troll farm, their impact, and implications.
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