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Twitter ramps up fight against abuse and malicious bots

Jack Dorsey
Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey acknowledged this year that the company inadvertently helped spread misinformation, harassment and manipulation via bots, or automated accounts.
(Richard Drew / Associated Press)

Twitter Inc. said it’s making changes to combat abuse and malicious automated accounts, including requiring more authentication for new users, in an effort to address complaints that social networking services have allowed harassment and manipulation to run rampant.

For the first time, Twitter is going to require confirmation of an email address or phone number to sign up for an account. The company, which promotes itself as a place for public conversation about news and events, has long been criticized for making it too easy for malicious actors to create multiple spam accounts. Twitter said it would work with experts to make sure the changes don’t harm users in high-risk environments in which anonymity is important.

Since the revelations that Russian troll accounts sowed discord on social-media platforms during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Twitter has released a series of updates to clamp down on suspicious activity. This year, Chief Executive Jack Dorsey acknowledged the San Francisco company inadvertently helped spread misinformation, harassment and manipulation via bots, or automated accounts. Last week, Twitter acquired security start-up Smyte to help fight online spam, abuse and fraud.

The company is also developing machine learning algorithms that proactively find problematic accounts, rather than waiting until someone flags the bad behavior.

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In May, its system identified more than 9.9 million potentially spam or automated accounts a week, an increase from 3.2 million a week in September, Twitter said Tuesday in a blog post. The average number of spam reports a day has dropped from 25,000 in March to about 17,000 in May.


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