Twitter has reportedly lifted restrictions on several Kremlin-linked accounts after its acquisition by tech billionaire Elon Musk. Multiple tests have shown that the website’s search results, timeline, and recommendation tools now display accounts such as Vladimir Putin’s presidential account, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and its UK Embassy – all of which had restrictions placed on them during hostilities.
This move follows Twitter’s decision to stop limiting the reach of Russian state media organizations. Last year, the social media platform announced a policy to “not amplify or recommend government accounts belonging to states that limit access to free information and are engaged in armed interstate conflict.” This policy was immediately applied to Russian government accounts when Russian troops entered Ukraine.
However, Twitter has now reversed this policy. The lifting of restrictions on Kremlin-linked accounts has raised questions about whether the social media platform is compromising its values of free expression and transparency. Critics argue that Twitter effectively provides a platform for state propaganda and disinformation, particularly in the context of recent Russian interference in foreign elections.
The Twitter executive confirmed that the company had implemented several restrictions
How this development will impact, Twitter’s reputation and user base remains to be seen, particularly in light of growing concerns around online disinformation and propaganda. While Twitter has not commented on the policy change, it is believed that Elon Musk’s ownership of the platform may have played a role in the decision. Musk has previously expressed his admiration for Putin and has been criticized for his perceived alignment with authoritarian regimes.
Recently, there has been controversy surrounding Twitter’s efforts to crack down on misinformation and propaganda from state-sponsored accounts. In the past, the social media giant implemented measures to restrict the visibility of accounts linked to the Russian government, such as limiting their appearance in search results and timelines.
However, a recent investigation by The Telegraph found that some Russian government accounts were still showing up at the top of specific search results and being recommended to users as accounts to follow. Russian government tweets appeared in the “For You” feed for new users, even if they did not follow those accounts.
A former Twitter executive confirmed that the company had indeed implemented measures to restrict the visibility of state-sponsored accounts in the past, but these measures have been less effective than anticipated. Twitter has not yet commented on the recent investigation, but the company will likely face increased scrutiny and pressure to take more aggressive action against state-sponsored propaganda.
Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet system
They said: “It would be exceedingly unlikely that this change would have happened accidentally, or without the knowledge and direction of the company’s staff.”
Social media has become a primary tool for the spread of misinformation and propaganda, particularly from the Kremlin. The Russian embassy’s Twitter account in the UK has been widely condemned for spreading false information, including claims that Ukrainian forces are attacking their citizens and suggesting that soldiers should be executed.
However, Twitter has recently been scrutinized for loosening restrictions on state media accounts from China and Russia, such as RT.com and the Global Times. These accounts were previously labeled state-sponsored and downranked in users’ feeds, but now they are being recommended and promoted on the site. In addition, labels urging users to “stay informed” have been removed from these accounts.
Furthermore, a recent study of Twitter’s source code showed that posts related to the crisis in Ukraine are being downranked in the platform’s algorithm. This raises concerns about Twitter’s ability to effectively moderate content and prevent the spread of false information and propaganda.
Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet system has played a significant role in Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself against Russia’s invasion. However, Musk’s sympathies towards Russia have come under fire in recent months, particularly from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
In light of these developments, there have been concerns about Twitter’s ability to effectively moderate content and prevent the spread of false information and propaganda. However, the social media platform must respond more to recent inquiries. The company’s press office email address returned an automatic reply featuring a poo emoji, and the head of trust and safety, Ella Irwin, did not respond to requests for comment.