In recent months, and in response to massive consumer and political pressure, social media companies have been clearing the decks, deleting bad actors and “fake” accounts while also limiting the accounts of provocateurs. Facebook has deleted millions of accounts, gaining consistent headlines. Not to be outdone, Twitter recently suspended a network of accounts accused of “pushing pro-Saudi messages” on the heels of the Jamal Khashoggi scandal.
Speaking to the media, Twitter said the accounts were “behaving like spam accounts,” and that Twitter had been monitoring the accounts “for some time.” The company added that, though the content appeared to be pro-Saudi, there was no evidence the accounts were being supported or abetted by the Saudi government.
Still, the response came about after a systems analyst noticed that there had been a surge in botnet activity related to Saudi comments related to the Khashoggi issue. Soon, Arabic hashtags were trending, celebrating the Saudi crown prince and denigrating those who would accuse the Saudi royals of having a role in the disappearance of the journalist.
The bot boost is something Twitter is monitoring very closely. If the company wants to repair its damaged reputation and rebuild trust lost, the brand must make public strides to protect the integrity of the Twitter experience. This is moving target and can be very difficult to hit, but it also provides nearly constant opportunities to get wins that can be publicly celebrated.
Casual users don’t know all the numbers, and they don’t really want to know what’s going on behind the curtain. They just want to see wins so they can feel more confident about their social media experience.
Meanwhile, social media watchdogs are saying troll accounts that exist specifically to disrupt and spread propaganda are on the rise. Marc Owen Jones told CNN this is not all bots. “Although Twitter claimed they suspended some botnets this is relatively trivial, the bots suspended were crude and likely to have been identified as part of Twitter’s routine spambot roundup… I’ve identified similar networks for years and Twitter rarely makes a fanfare of getting them removed. Indeed, there are existing botnets spreading pro-regime propaganda that has existed since 2012 and that is still going strong.”
One point in those comments really jumps out, when you read it from a PR perspective. This has been going on for some time, but Twitter is being more public about outing bots and closing down spam accounts. Clearly, the company sees PR value in letting the public know what it’s up to… Even if it has a long way to go.
About Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations. He is one of the foremost Public Relations experts in the United States, with over 20 years of experience. He has won countless awards for leadership and entrepreneurship, and Ronn Torossian has transformed businesses through strategic and aggressive PR strategies.
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