Twitter has banned quite 100 accounts that pushed the pro-Russian hashtag #IStandWithPutin for participating in “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” days after the hashtag trended on Twitter amid the invasion in Ukraine.
A Twitter spokesperson said on Friday that it’s still investigating the origins and links between the accounts, which it banned the accounts for violating its “platform manipulation and spam policy.”
The accounts with the foremost retweets about the hashtag on Wednesday only had a couple of dozen followers and used stock photos as profile pictures, which led disinformation researchers to question how the tweets went viral.
It’s a sign that Russia’s once-feared “firehose of falsehood” has been both neutralized and drowned call at recent weeks, particularly as Western media and social platforms have sprung into action.
The swarm of inauthentic accounts was initially discovered by Marc Owen Jones, an professor of Middle East studies and digital humanities at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar.
“People throw the term bots around tons , but what we saw here was many accounts demonstrating inauthentic activity and astroturfing,” Jones said. “They’re not bots. They’re tons harder to see than that. Imagine a call centre setup. consider the quantity of injury you’ll do.”
The #IStandWithPutin hashtag then received a second wind as a trending topic when authentic accounts began tweeting the hashtag simply to criticize it.
“This is that the paradox of this type of behavior,” Jones said. “Some of the foremost engaged tweets were people denouncing the hashtag.”
Its failed attempt at building support on Twitter is that the latest illustration of a Russian propaganda war that’s fallen flat within the West. Since the invasion, the Kremlin has struggled to penetrate new barriers imposed on digital platforms and advance an anti-Ukraine narrative. On newer platforms, like TikTok, pro-Ukraine content has dominated.
That’s a marked change from the primary six weeks of the year, when Russian messaging was stronger and pervasive, consistent with a report from Omelas, a digital analysis firm.
Russia flooded social media worldwide in early January at an equivalent time that Western media wasn’t as focused on Ukraine reporting, Omelas found. That gave Russia a window to spread Kremlin-backed propaganda, including pertaining to a Ukraine invasion as a “military operation,” reporting that Ukraine was provoking the war and other narratives most favorable to Russia, consistent with Omelas.
From Jan. 1-Feb. 20, Omelas tracked quite 192,000 posts from Russian government sources on the subject of Ukraine — 40 percent of all the posts it tracked therein time.
Kremlin-backed dominance over the conversation changed in mid-February, as troops massed on the Ukrainian border and Russian President Putin readied an attack. The Western media’s round-the-clock coverage of the war and a consistency of reporting that showed Putin because the aggressor has dominated the news, which has helped build worldwide sympathy for Ukraine, said Andrew Gonzalez, a geopolitical analyst with Omelas.