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Twitter hunts down fake accounts to help safeguard midterm elections

It'll be looking for stolen avatar photos and copied or misleading bios.

Twitter logo social networking website seen displayed on a
Twitter is hunting down fake accounts.
SOPA Images

With the US midterm elections just over a month away, Twitter's cracking down on fake accounts.

"We now may remove fake accounts engaged in a variety of emergent, malicious behaviors," the company said in a blog post on its elections integrity work.

It's expanded its rules for identifying fake accounts, looking for stock or stolen avatar photos, stolen or copied profile bios and profiles containing misleading information -- with a particular focus on that profile's location.

Political candidates are getting a prompt to turn on two-factor authentication, but they aren't required to enable the security feature. A majority of candidates have been using two-factor authentication, a Twitter spokesman said.

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As part of Twitter's new policy, the social network said it's banning any posts containing hacked materials. The move comes two years after WikiLeaks posted hacked content from the Democratic National Committee's emails, which Justice Department prosecutors said came from Russian hackers looking to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Hackers often use social media platforms like Twitter to publicize their attacks, as a way to threaten victims or spread their message. When Russian hackers infiltrated the DNC's emails, they leaked the information out on Twitter through an account called DCLeaks, as well as a hacker persona named Guccifer 2.0.

In the past, hacker groups like OurMine would also take to Twitter to claim responsibility for attacks, including hacking the accounts of Marvel, Netflix and the NFL.

Twitter is careful to note that commentary about hacking won't make them flag your account.

The post highlighted some of Twitter's success in tracking down fake accounts in August. The company removed around 50 accounts pretending to be linked to state Republican parties and took down 770 spreading misinformation from Iran.

In the first half of September, it challenged around 9.4 million accounts each week. That same month, it expanded requirements for political advertisers in the US and announced its #BeAVoter campaign to help people register to vote.

It follows Facebook in setting up a physical and digital war room at its headquarters to monitor upcoming elections.

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