Twitter purged more than 10,000 accounts in late September and early October that were telling people not to vote on Tuesday.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee flagged the suspected bots, accounts that churn out automated messages, after they saw accounts purporting to be Democrats targeting key demographic groups with the message to stay home and avoid casting a ballot.
Twitter did not provide examples of the accounts or tweets involved, as has happened when the company has removed Russian and Iranian disinformation dummy accounts.
Reuters reported that one of the tweets churned out “discouraged Democratic men from voting, saying that would drown out the voice of women.”
“We removed a series of accounts for engaging in attempts to share disinformation in an automated fashion – a violation of our policies,” a Twitter spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We stopped this quickly and at its source.”
Yoel Roth, head of site integrity at Twitter, tweeted today that “even among researchers, there’s little agreement about what ‘bot’ means,” and it can “refer to everything from accounts that post automatically to spammers to real people that Tweet something controversial.”
“When we talk about bots, we mean accounts engaged in platform manipulation and spam. Even then, identifying bots using only public data is very difficult,” he added. “Since nobody other than Twitter can see non-public, internal account data, third parties using Twitter data to identify bots are doing so based on probability, not certainty.”
Twitter senior public policy manager Bridget Coyne wrote on the company’s blog Thursday that in the past month users have posted more than 10 million Tweets about voting.
“We launched our #BeAVoter campaign in September to promote increased, informed participation in the 2018 US midterms. To date, Twitter has added nearly 1,000 election labels to candidates’ profiles and partnered with local television stations across the country to livestream 32 House, Senate and gubernatorial debates on Twitter. In comparison to 2016, the number of people who Tweeted about #NationalVoterRegistrationDay has also doubled,” she added. “Starting today, Twitter is launching a wave of new #BeAVoter campaign initiatives to build on those efforts and encourage eligible voters to participate in next week’s elections.”
That will include U.S. Twitter users seeing an Election Day countdown in their home timeline with information how to find their polling place and ballot info.
It also includes a video campaign featuring “influential young voices on Twitter to leverage their reach and encourage young people to educate themselves about which candidates will appear on their ballot.”