For the most part, social media sites and other 21st-century tech companies place a high value on freedom of expression. They want people to have a platform to share their ideas, even if those ideas are controversial. But even the tech bigwigs draw the line when it comes to fake users cranking out automated content. According to a Snopes report, Twitter and other social sites are cracking down on Russian bots and other similar accounts, issuing numerous bans and suspensions in an effort to put an end to artificial posts.
Twitter is understandably at the forefront of this movement to stifle Russian bots. The site came under fire after the 2016 election for its role in distributing propaganda and building an audience for hoax news stories. In response to this problem, the company has suspended thousands of accounts. Twitter said in a statement that the company is apolitical, but it made a non-partisan decision to eliminate accounts that were disingenuous.
“As part of our ongoing work in safety, we identify suspicious account behaviors that indicate automated activity or violations of our policies around having multiple accounts, or abuse,” the company said. “We also take action on any accounts we find that violate our terms of service, including asking account owners to confirm a phone number so we can confirm a human is behind it.”
Suspicion about the Russian bots issue has been mounting since November 2016. As public pressure built, Twitter leadership eventually felt compelled to take action. They moved to identify users who were putting up identical posts on multiple accounts as well as those who liked or retweeted posts simultaneously on more than one account, and bar them from creating future content. Additionally, Twitter is taking steps to preempt future bots by requiring users to provide a unique phone number or email address.
Twitter isn’t the only social platform that’s been tough on bots lately. The popular blogging site Medium also recently took a stand, announcing that they’d no longer allow their pages to host “online hate, abuse, harassment, and disinformation.” Russian bots may have had an impact during the last election cycle, but today’s tech leaders appear committed to making sure that doesn’t happen again.