Twitter has removed more than 5,000 bot accounts that called special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation a hoax, NBC News reports.
The accounts were discovered to be part of an organized, possibly foreign effort to attack special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe as a hoax and defend President Trump in the days after the highly anticipated Mueller report.
The accounts appear to have ties to a social media operation that previously promoted messages sympathetic to Saudi Arabia’s government, according to NBC.
“We suspended a network of accounts and others associated with it for engaging in platform manipulation — a violation of the Twitter Rules,” a Twitter spokesperson told The Hill.
“While our investigations are ongoing, in cases such as this, attribution is difficult. If we do have reasonable evidence to support state-backed activity, we will disclose the accounts as part of our information operations archive,” the spokesperson added.
Most of the deleted accounts had posted about 30 times since their creation in November and December, the news outlet reported.
Nearly all of the bot accounts attacked the media for using the “Russiagate hoax” to undermine President Trump, and often lifted language from other pro-Trump accounts’ tweets without attribution, according to NBC.
The Hill adds:
Many of the banned accounts frequently engaged, through likes or retweets, with @TheGlobus, an account purporting to be a news service but which, until last month, primarily posted memes and tweets praising Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Thousands of the accounts deleted over the weekend only liked tweets from @TheGlobus and no other accounts, according to NBC.
Before the rebrand, the account was named @ArabianVeritas, describing itself on its now-abandoned Instagram account as “an initiative that aims to spread the truth about Saudi Arabia and the Middle East through social media engagement.”
“Whether this is a government or a pro-Saudi influence firm, it shows how easy it is to do and that there’s no cost or consequences for it,” Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told NBC News. “These are made to influence Americans or western audiences.”