Amid growing concerns regarding the exploitation of social media platforms for political campaigns worldwide, Twitter has announced the suspension of around 70 accounts that were found to have been posting content in support of US presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg.
“We have taken enforcement action on a group of accounts for violating our rules against platform manipulation and spam,” a Twitter spokesperson confirmed on Saturday.
Michael Bloomberg, a former New York City mayor, and 2020 US presidential candidate having already spent heavily on advertisements on TV and social media, reportedly in the tune of $1 Million a day, has upped the ante by hiring individual people and influencers for sponsored posts. The campaign has been paying people $2500 a month for promoting the candidate through weekly text messages and daily posts on their personal social media pages.
Interestingly, Facebook, in a contrary move, had recently allowed influencers to create and push content on behalf of politicians, a move that received heavy criticism across the spectrum.
A spokesperson for the Bloomberg campaign said the tweets weren’t meant to trick anybody.
“We ask that all of our deputy field organizers identify themselves as working on behalf of the Mike Bloomberg 2020 campaign on their social media accounts,” Sabrina Singh, senior national spokesperson for the Bloomberg campaign, said in an emailed statement to Reuters. “Through Outvote content is shared by staffers and volunteers to their network of friends and family and was not intended to mislead anyone.”
The accounts reportedly were found to be using the same texts, images, links, and hashtags. But the tech giant’s rules clearly state that “You can’t artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts.” This includes creating multiple accounts to post the same content, and “coordinating with or compensating others to engage in artificial engagement or amplification, even if the people involved use only one account.”
The rules were put in place in 2019 in response to efforts by Russian accounts to influence American voters during the 2016 election.
Twitter had already banned political ads on the platform that “spoke for or against a candidate, legislative proposal or election” back in November. The move came in response to growing concerns that office-seekers, government officials and their allies are too easily able to weaponize popular social media services and pay to promote falsehoods — though some experts still questioned whether Twitter had struck the right balance in crafting its new approach.
Additionally, Twitter recently announced that its tool that helped track misinformation during elections, will be back for the US presidential elections in 2020.