Twitter in Russia in April: Twitterrodionovreuters
On April 1, the Russian government said that it will restrict Twitter within its borders, claiming the need to protect its citizens from “fake news” and other hazardous content. Proponents of free expression slammed the decision, and many Russians took to Twitter to voice their outrage. Numerous users used the hashtag #Twitterrodionov to voice their opposition to and support the social media platform.
April Twitterrodionovreuters for Russia
On April 1, Russian Twitter users were taken aback by the arrival of “Twitterrodionov,” a new law enforcement officer, on their timelines. This new “policeman” claimed to be putting an end to “trolling” and “fake news,” and he even had a badge and a Russian flag emoji next to his name to further prove his authority.
Yet it turns out that Twitterrodionov was only a clever April fool’s Day hoax by the Russian news organization Reuters. The fake account was created by updating the profile of genuine Reuter’s journalist Maxim Rodionov and adding an image of a police officer and changing the bio to read: “I track trolls and promote the truth on Twitter.” Please contact me if you notice anything suspicious.
Russian media outlets jumped on the joke right away, with some even claiming that the new Twitter cop would be issuing “trolling penalties” of up to 3,000 rubles (about $50).
Some Twitter users found the prank hilarious, while others did not. One user, @navalny, even tied the joke to the “Orwellian” reality of life in Russia, where the Kremlin is infamous for stifling dissent and free expression.
Regardless of whether you found the joke entertaining, Twitterrodionov was a clever way to call attention to the Russian government’s increasingly tight control over the internet and social media.
Russia influencing the US election by using Twitter
The US intelligence community has concluded that the Russian government used social media to influence the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.
Twitter is a significant channel for the Russian government to disseminate propaganda. It was uncovered that the Internet Research Agency (IRA), an organization with links to the Russian government, had created hundreds of false Twitter accounts to spread disinformation and foment discord during the election.
It’s worth noting that the IRA didn’t only create bogus accounts; they also purchased Twitter advertisements. Furthermore, Twitter has confessed that it sold the IRA adverts for $274,100 during the election.
There is no question that the Russian government’s social media effort had an impact on the election, even if its specific impact cannot be quantified. Because Twitter is one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, the Russian government will likely continue to utilize it to broadcast propaganda in the future.
The reason Twitter let Russia off the hook
Twitter has come under fire for allowing Russia to influence the 2016 US presidential election. Opponents argue that the social media platform did not go far enough to prevent Russian hackers from using it to spread fake information and incite unrest.
Twitter has defended its conduct, arguing that it has taken steps to prevent foreign influence in elections and is continually improving 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 US intelligence community, Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to help Donald Trump win. Notwithstanding the Kremlin’s denials, Twitter has emerged as a key source of Russian disinformation and propaganda.
In the aftermath of the 2016 election, Twitter has taken some steps to tighten down on Russian-related behavior and accounts. Yet, much more must be done to prevent Russia (or any other government) from meddling with future elections through Twitter.
Twitter’s content moderation has to improve, especially when it comes to sensitive topics like election tampering.