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Twitter suspends 16 accounts linked to Middle East propaganda campaign

Fake personas placed dozens of opinion pieces in conservative publications, an investigation by the Daily Beast reveals.

Twitter suspended 16 accounts linked to a network spreading propaganda about Middle East countries.
Image by Pixabay/Illustration by CNET

Twitter said Monday it has suspended 16 accounts discovered to be part of a network of fake personas spreading propaganda about Middle East countries. The accounts were suspended for violating the social media company's platform manipulation policy.

"Using technology, human review and partnerships with researchers and other independent organizations studying these issues, we work to identify platform manipulation on our service and take action," a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. "As is standard, if we have reasonable evidence to attribute any activity to a state-backed information operation, we'll disclose them -- following thorough investigation -- to our public archive."

The accounts are among a network of at least 19 accounts belonging to fictitious people that spent the past year planting more than 90 opinion pieces in 46 different publications, according to The Daily Beast, which first reported on the network after conducting an investigation of its operations. The articles generally praised the United Arab Emirates while pressing for a tougher stance on Qatar, Turkey on Iran, according to The Daily Beast.

The opinion pieces ran in conservative publications such as the Washington Examiner, RealClear Markets, American Thinker and The National Interest, the Daily Beast's probe found.

The suspensions are part of Twitter's efforts to tamp down on misinformation being shared on the platform. Twitter's fight against misinformation campaigns started in 2018 when it deleted more than a million fake accounts

In June, Twitter announced it had permanently removed 32,242 accounts that were found to be state-backed operations spreading political propaganda from China, Russia and Turkey.

The Middle East propaganda network's personas had fake backstories or phony academic or professional credentials to prop up their credibility, the Daily Beast reported, including some who pretended to be journalists, while others referred to themselves as an "international relations senior analyst." They used stolen avatars manipulated to avoid reverse image detection and amplified each others' work, the Daily Beast found.