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Twitter Says It ‘Challenged More Than 9.9 Million’ Accounts A Week In May

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor

Twitter “identified and challenged more than 9.9 million potentially spammy or automated accounts per week” in May, the company announced Tuesday.

The disclosure comes in a blog post titled “How Twitter Is Fighting Spam and Malicious Automation,” in which top Twitter officials explain what they are up against as a popular social media platform.

“Twitter fights spam and malicious automation strategically and at scale. Our focus is increasingly on proactively identifying problematic accounts and behavior rather than waiting until we receive a report,” Yoel Roth, a platform manager, and Del Harvey, vice president of trust and safety, wrote in the post. “Platform manipulation and spam are challenges we continue to face and which continue to evolve, and we’re striving to be more transparent with you about our work.”

“Challenge” means Twitter has been requiring the account in question to submit a phone number or email. “Spammy” is considered by Twitter to mean when the user is behaving inorganically or showing signs of maliciousness.

The 9.9-million figure is a substantial increase from December and September 2017 in which it challenged 6.4 and 3.2 million, respectively.

Aside from malicious engagement, which is a naturally subjective measurement to enforce, Twitter is also trying to reduce the visibility of accounts that want to game the system.

“A common form of spammy and automated behavior is following accounts in coordinated, bulk ways,” Roth and Harvey wrote. “Often accounts engaged in these activities are successfully caught by our automated detection tools (and removed from our active user metrics) shortly after the behavior begins. But we haven’t done enough in the past to make the impact of our detections and actions clear. That’s why we’ve started updating account metrics in near-real time.”

Twitter is also sure to explain that due to some of its measures, the number of followers an account has could drop, even sharply.

“As a result of these improvements, some people may notice their own account metrics change more regularly,” the post continued. “But we think this is an important shift in how we display Tweet and account information to ensure that malicious actors aren’t able to artificially boost an account’s credibility permanently by inflating metrics like the number of followers.”

A large portion of the public constantly criticizes Twitter for cultivating a platform with a lack of a free expression ethos. Still popular, perhaps because of a lack of a popular alternative, Twitter, on the other hand, like many other tech companies, is trying to balance out calls from another side of society to do more about vitriolic or offensive content. (RELATED: Twitter: ‘Our Mistake’ For Restricting User Who Criticized Hamas)

Finding a balance between the two seems to be a difficult task for Twitter. Nevertheless, Twitter seems determined to push ahead with its use of machine learning and human moderators to weed out certain content, even if it leads the company to receive claims of unfair censorship.

“Due to technology and process improvements during the past year,” Roth and Harvey said, “we are now removing 214% more accounts for violating our spam policies on a year-on-year basis.”

Twitter claimed in August 2016 that it shut down 235,000 accounts connected to terrorism in the prior six months.

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