The Russia-Ukraine conflict escalated this morning when Vladimir Putin made the decision to start a military operation invading Ukrainian territory. At the same time, multiple Twitter accounts of OSINT (open source intelligence) profiles that have been documenting military movements on the border between the two countries began to be blocked.
The blockades began in the early hours of Tuesday and have been extended throughout this Wednesday and Thursday. In response to claims that these were false automated reports made by Russian-controlled accounts, Twitter has responded by denying the allegation citing “human error.”
“We never activate the automatic blocking due to the volume of complaints because of how easy it can be manipulated”
Journalists are concerned about possible Russian influence in the massive reporting of accounts to bury smaller OSINT profiles. But while some believe it’s Twitter’s algorithm that has been automatically suspending accounts, the social network’s Head of Site Integrity, Yoel Roth, says that’s not the case.
Roth says that Twitter is investigating the problem closely, but that “mass reporting of accounts is not a factor in this case”. He cites a “small number of human errors” resulting from the “proactive work they are doing to deal with manipulated information.”
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On Twitter they say they are solving the problem and contacting those affected directly. Roth also adds that Twitter never activates automatic blocking based on the volume of complaints received, precisely because they would be very easy to manipulate.
There are skeptics who believe it can’t be due to human error alone, reporting that a small number of well-known profiles were suspended by Twitter employees on the eve of the Russian invasion. They ask Twitter to whitelist OSINT sources to better protect them.