Two US Senators have demanded answers from Twitter concerning increased Russian bot activity targeting the US government. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Sheldon Whitehouse have asked Twitter to explain why Russian bots which manipulated tweets were not intercepted. In a letter addressed to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, the senators allayed their disappointment after a bipartisan group confirmed that Russian agents were undermining democracy through elections and policy debates.
“It’s reprehensible that Russian bot accounts are manipulating innocent American citizens,” they said.
This follows reports that the US government shutdown witnessed a week ago was pushed by bots originating from Russia. The Alliance for Securing Democracy said that it tracked down one of the offending hash-tags which was trending last week, #SchumerShutdown, to Russian bots. The hash-tag blamed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for the government impasse.
The group also confirmed that the Russian bot accounts were responsible for pushing divisive hash-tag #ReleaseTheMemo, which called for the release of classified file concerning FBI’s alleged surveillance of Trump’s campaign personnel.
The hashtag, according to senators Blumenthal and Whitehouse, were meant to discredit the probe on Special Counsel Robert Mueller. According to the letter , the two senators wants Twitter to notify all users who wree affected by the manipulative tweets.
Through ablog post, Twitter said it had notified its users about Russian propaganda tweets that were tracked during the 2016 elections. “Twitter is sending emails to 677,775 users in the US who interacted with one of the these accounts through likes or re-tweets during the election period. The firm confirmed it had suspended the accounts and consequently removed the offending messages. However, the firm did not respond when asked if it will notify its users about the hash-tags #SchumerShutdown and #ReleaseTheMemo.
But it seems the company takes allegations of malicious activity seriously. A Twitter spokesperson said in a statement that the firm is addressing any assertions of malicious activity on its platform. In a statement, Twitter said it was looking forward to working with the Congress members in a bid to address their concerns.