Twitter, the social media giant, recently banned accounts that shared Russian military activities during the Ukraine invasion. Twitter quickly changed its mind and reinstated the accounts.
Engadget reported that Russia was moving into Ukrainian territory. Accounts on social media started sharing photos and videos from the eastern Donbas and Luhansk regions, providing vital information. These accounts shared footage showing Russian helicopters flying towards Crimea, and tanks arriving at the border. Many of these accounts were quickly suspended by Twitter.
Kyle Glen, an open-source intelligence researcher (OSINT), discovered that his account was locked for 12 hours on February 22. Oliver Alexander, a security analyst, claims that his account was locked twice in 24 hours. Numerous other OSIN research accounts, including Neurone Intelligence and Mundo en Conflicto as well as Noticias e Guerras, also reported being affected in the span of 24 hours.
Researchers became concerned that the account suspension could have been caused by Russian actors attempting to disable OSINT accounts, and stop them sharing critical information.
Twitter confirmed that accounts had been suspended by the company and has reversed that decision. Engadget was told by a spokesperson for Twitter:
We have been monitoring emerging narratives for violations of our policies and took enforcement action in this instance on several accounts. We are quickly reviewing the actions and have already proactive reinstated access to some accounts. It is incorrect to claim that these errors were caused by mass reporting or a coordinated bot campaign.
Aric Toler, director of research at Bellingcat and training, said that it was quite surprising to see how many English-language accounts were affected due to Twitter’s policies. Toler explained that it is usually smaller accounts or accounts in foreign languages that are affected by Twitter’s policies. This is because Twitter mods don’t have the same language proficiency. “But you can see a lot more people tweeting English, including some very large accounts with tens to thousands of followers.” It’s quite strange.