Twitter has been criticized for dragging its feet when punishing accounts that violate its terms of service. This time around, instead of a failure to stop harassment or death threats, the social network may have let a Russian government troll flourish on its platform.
The Russia-linked account, known as @TEN_GOP, claimed to represent the Tennessee Republican party and sent out tweets that said unarmed black men killed by police had deserved it, according to a report in BuzzFeed.
Created in November 2015, the account amassed about 136,000 followers before being suspended in late August of this year. It was created by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian-government affiliated troll farm, according to BuzzFeed, which cited a Russian news report.
Candice Dawkins, the actual Tennessee GOP's spokeswoman, told Buzzfeed she alerted Twitter to the bogus account on three occasions: once in September 2016, and again in March and mid-August of this year.
Dawkins confirmed the timeline to CNET on Wednesday, adding the fake account wasn't affiliated with her office. A Twitter spokesperson said the company doesn't comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons.
The news comes as social media companies face increasing scrutiny for their role in the spread of misinformation and divisive posts from Russia-affiliated accounts during the 2016 presidential election. On Wednesday, two US senators said they plan to introduce bipartisan legislation that would require political ads placed on social media sites to meet the same requirements as similar ads on TV, radio and newspapers.
On Nov. 1, Congress plans to question Twitter, Facebook and Google about Russian-bought ads on their platforms that may have influenced the election.
Facebook said it has turned over to congressional intelligence committees 3,000 Russian-linked ads that were seen by 10 million people. Twitter said it discovered 201 Russian accounts on its site that were connected to the Facebook ads. Google reportedly found that Russians spent tens of thousands of dollars for ads on YouTube, Gmail and Google search.
CNET's Laura Hautala contributed to this report.
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