- Twitter appears to be amplifying tweets of Russian state accounts after suppressing them last year.
- The Telegraph created a new account and was recommended the Kremlin-linked accounts, it reported.
- Elon Musk has been lifting most restrictions on accounts labelled harmful under previous management.
Elon Musk’s Twitter is amplifying Kremlin-linked accounts including Vladimir Putin’s presidential account after restricting them last year, testing revealed.
Analysis by The Telegraph showed accounts belonging to Putin, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Russian embassy in Britain are appearing in Twitter’s search results, timeline and recommendations.
The findings suggest that restrictions designed to reduce the Russian state’s social media reach, brought in after the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, have been softened.
When Twitter was still a public company run by former CEO Parag Agrawal, it issued a statement laying out its plans to suppress Russian misinformation.
“We will not amplify or recommend government accounts belonging to states that limit access to free information and are engaged in armed interstate conflict – whether Twitter is blocked in that country or not,” the site wrote. This meant they wouldn’t appear on Twitter’s main search functions.
However, tests by The Telegraph suggest this policy had now changed.
The newspaper created a fresh account and found Russian state pages appeared in the algorithmically driven For You feed despite not following them. They would also reportedly show up in certain search results and as recommended accounts to follow.
A former Twitter executive, who wasn’t named, told The Telegraph it was likely a change in policy had occurred for those accounts to be amplified again.
“It would be exceedingly unlikely that this change would have happened accidentally, or without the knowledge and direction of the company’s staff,” the source said.
Russia’s state-affiliated accounts have come under fire in the past for aggressive rhetoric focused around its campaign in Ukraine. Twitter hid a tweet from Russia’s embassy in Britain calling for a “humiliating death” for Ukrainian prisoners of war.
—Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) July 29, 2022
Twitter had more broadly limited the reach of state-affiliated media since 2020, by not recommending them to users and labelling them as state-affiliated.
Musk frequently referenced free speech during his $44 billion takeover of Twitter, denouncing the company’s previous policy of suspending accounts regarded by some as harmful.
The world’s second-richest man reinstated Donald Trump’s Twitter account in November to this end, although the former president has still not posted any new tweets.
Musk came under fire for controversial tweets outlining a peace plan that would involve Ukraine surrendering much of the territory Russia occupied after its invasion. His Starlink satellite internet service, though, has proved helpful to Ukraine’s defence.
Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.