Twitter this week removed more than 5,000 bot accounts that called special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation a hoax.
“We suspended a network of accounts and others associated with it for engaging in platform manipulation — a violation of the Twitter Rules,” a Twitter spokesperson said.
“While our investigations are ongoing, in cases such as this, attribution is difficult. If we do have reasonable evidence to support state-backed activity, we will disclose the accounts as part of our information operations archive,” the spokesperson added.
Almost all the tweets attacked the media for using the “Russiagate hoax” to undermine President Trump, and often lifted language from other pro-Trump accounts’ tweets without attribution, according to NBC.
The move by Twitter reportedly came Sunday night, after Thursday’s release of the highly anticipated Mueller report, and was first reported by NBC News.
Many of the banned accounts frequently engaged, through likes or retweets, with @TheGlobus, an account purporting to be a news service but which, until last month, primarily posted memes and tweets praising Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
NBC News noted that it wasn’t clear whether the accounts had any direct connections to Saudi Arabia’s government, but one expert told them it was clear the bots were meant to “influence” Americans in the wake of the Mueller report’s release.
“Whether this is a government or a pro-Saudi influence firm, it shows how easy it is to do and that there’s no cost or consequences for it,” Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told the news outlet. “These are made to influence Americans or western audiences.”