Russian bots on Twitter reportedly retweeted Donald Trump’s tweets almost half a million times in the run-up to the US presidential elections. The findings were released by Twitter in a report compiled for the United States Senate committee looking into Russian-related election activity.
It's the first time that Twitter has revealed such a detailed review of the tweets impacting on the US election.
Sifting through the 18.2 billion Tweets which were posted across the world in the period, Twitter found a huge range of mechanisms used by Russian-based accounts to promote the campaign of the subsequent president, whether retweeting pro-Trump propaganda or even by trying to set up rallies and demonstrations.
‘We identified 50,258 accounts that generated automated, election-related content and had at least one of the characteristics we used to associate an account with Russia. During the relevant period, those accounts generated approximately 2.12 million automated, election-related Tweets, which collectively received approximately 454.7 million impressions generated within the first seven days of posting.’
To make a direct comparison as to the differences between political leanings of these tweets, Twitter was able to find that these automated accounts retweeted @realDonaldTrump about 470,000 times, while @HillaryClinton was retweeted just under 48,000 times.
Despite the breadth of their approach, Twitter said that ‘there are technological limits to what we can determine based on the information we can detect regarding a user’s origin.’
Therefore the extent of the impact of many influencing accounts and automated ‘bots’ may never be known.