Twitter in Russia in April: Twitterrodionovreuters

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Written By Muhammad Abdullah

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On April 1, the Russian government announced that it will restrict Twitter within its borders, claiming the need to protect its citizens from “fake news” and other potentially harmful information. Free speech advocates blasted the ruling harshly, and many Russians took to Twitter to voice their outrage. The hashtag #Twitterrodionov was widely used to show both support for and criticism of the social media platform.

April Twitterrodionovreuters for Russia

On April 1, Russian Twitter users were taken aback when “Twitterrodionov,” a new law enforcement officer, suddenly appeared on their feeds. With a badge and a Russian flag emoji next to his name, this new “policeman” further emphasized his claim to be stopping “trolling” and “fake news.”

Nevertheless, it turns out that Twitterrodionov was only a clever April Fool’s hoax by the Russian news agency Reuters. The fake account was created by updating the profile of real Reuters journalist Maxim Rodionov, adding the image of a police officer, and changing the bio to read: “I monitor trolls and share the truth on Twitter.” Message me if you see anything suspicious.

The joke was quickly taken up by Russian media outlets; some even said that the new Twitter officer would be awarding “trolling fines” of up to 3,000 rubles (about $50).

The prank delighted some Twitter users, but not everyone found it funny. One user, @navalny, even made the connection between the joke and the “Orwellian” reality of life in Russia, a country where the Kremlin is infamous for suppressing dissent and free speech.

However funny you found the joke to be, Twitterrodionov was a clever way to highlight how tightly the Russian government is controlling the internet and social media.

Russia influencing the US election by using Twitter

The Russian government used social media to influence the 2016 presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor, according to the US intelligence community.

Twitter is one of the main platforms the Russian government utilizes to disseminate its propaganda. It was uncovered that the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a group with connections to the Russian government, had created hundreds of phony Twitter accounts to disseminate false information and sow division during the election.

It’s noteworthy to note that the IRA also purchased Twitter advertisements in addition to phony accounts. In reality, Twitter has acknowledged that it earned $274,100 from the sale of the IRA adverts during the election.

While it is hard to quantify its exact effect, there is little question that the Russian government’s social media effort had some impact on the election. Since that Twitter is one of the most popular social media platforms worldwide, the Russian government will probably continue to utilize it in the future to spread its propaganda.

How Russia inflamed rifts in the US through Twitter

The U.S. intelligence community claims that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to cause divisions in the nation. One way they did this was by spreading false information and stirring up trouble on Twitter.

In April 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported that Russia has used Twitter to ratchet up tensions in the United States. According to the WSJ, Russian officials used Twitter to distribute disinformation and divisive messages to American voters.

Moscow allegedly aimed to “amplify political turmoil in the United States,” according to the Times.

To do this, Russia developed fictitious Twitter accounts for US political people and organizations. They then used these accounts to tweet messages geared toward different political groups.

Several of the messages sought to alienate Americans from one another. In other cases, they aimed to reduce confidence in American institutions like the media or the government.

The Journal claims that Russia’s Twitter effort was “extremely successful” and reached “tens of millions” of Americans.

An assessment by the U.S. intelligence community, which determined that Russia meddled in the 2016 election to spark opposition in the nation, supports the Journal’s findings.

The intelligence community concluded that Moscow used social media to “amplify tension” in the United States.

Twitter claims that it is fighting disinformation on its platform. 2,752 accounts linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency were reportedly removed by Twitter in September 2018.

Even though Twitter’s attempts are a good step, it is clear that more has to be done to prevent Russia from using social media to cause unrest in the United States.

The reason Twitter let Russia off the hook

Twitter has been under criticism for helping Russia to influence the 2016 US presidential election. The social media platform’s detractors assert that not enough was done to prevent Russian hackers from exploiting it to propagate fake information and stir up discontent.

Twitter has defended its conduct, asserting that it has taken steps to prevent foreign interference in elections and that it is always upgrading its security.

Yet, other analysts believe that Russia was able to get away with its involvement because Twitter was covert about its defenses

What must happen to prevent Russia from meddling in elections on Twitter?

According to the U.S. intelligence community, Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election in an attempt to help Donald Trump win. Twitter has become a significant center for Russian disinformation and propaganda, despite the Kremlin’s denials of any participation.

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, Twitter has taken some efforts to tighten down on behavior and accounts tied to Russia. To prevent Russia (or any other country) from meddling in elections in the future through Twitter, however, much more has to be done.

Twitter’s content filtering has to be improved, especially when it comes to sensitive topics like election tampering.

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