At least 1.4 million people on Twitter interacted with Russian propaganda during the 2016 presidential election—double the number initially identified, according to a company blog post.
That figure, while larger than the previous number, is perhaps just a fraction of the full universe of users who may have been impacted by Kremlin disinformation over that time period, something Twitter has acknowledged.
In its announcement, Twitter also said it notified all 1.4 million affected users that they saw propaganda. That move made good on a pledge the company made to U.S. lawmakers who are probing Russia’s social media tactics.
The company notified users who followed one of the roughly 3,000 accounts belonging to a firm described as a Russian "troll farm" —known as the Internet Research Agency—as well as users who retweeted, replied, liked or mentioned those IRA accounts in their tweets.
However, Twitter did not alert users who merely saw Russian propaganda tweets in their feed but didn’t interact with it. Nor did it reach out to users who saw tweets from the roughly 50,000 Kremlin bots that tweeted election-related content around November 2016. It's unclear whether Twitter alerted the 1.4 million users of the actual Russian-linked propaganda they interacted with.
It seems plausible that the total number of users who saw Russian disinformation probably surpasses the 1.4 million who were alerted.
When asked by Recode for an updated figure, Twitter’s representative declined to comment. However, its blog post acknowledges that its efforts may have fallen short:
“As our review continues, we may also email additional users,” the company continued. “If and when we do so, we will do our best to keep the public updated.”
The company’s updated notice regarding Russian interference comes as the social media company, along with Facebook and Google, continue to face heat from elected officials about their content and policies. Democrats slammed Facebook and Twitter in a letter on Wednesday for not fully answering questions about whether Russian bots had once again utilized their platforms to prop up the “Release the Memo” campaign—seen by many as a way to discredit the FBI’s Russia investigation.
Facebook has said that 126 million users may have seen Russian propaganda on its platform—but it, too, has only contacted a fraction of those individuals.
In a bit of good news for Twitter, a San Francisco federal appeals court ruled that it’s not liable to families of two U.S. government contractors killed by ISIS attack in Jordan for failing to block the terrorists from using its messaging services.