Twitter says it has removed more than 8,000 fake accounts allegedly linked to Serbia’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and its leader, President Aleksandar Vucic.
“Toward the end of last year, we identified clusters of accounts engaged in inauthentic coordinated activity which led to the removal of 8,558 accounts working to promote Serbia’s ruling party and its leader,” the California-based social-media company said on April 2.
The alleged government-backed bot campaign violated Twitter’s policy and was a “targeted attempt to undermine the public conversation,” the company said.
According to an analysis conducted by the Stanford University Internet Observatory, the 8,558 accounts served as “a coordinated pro-Vucic brigade” on Twitter that sent out more than 43 million tweets.
Most of the inauthentic activity occurred in 2018 and 2019, Stanford researchers said.
“These accounts engaged in inauthentic coordinated activity to promote SNS and Vucic, to attack their political opponents, and to amplify content from news outlets favorable to them,” they said.
“While a precise connection between this network and SNS has not been established, there can be no doubt, given the content these accounts shared and the time period in which they were active, that this network was aligned with Vucic’s efforts to entrench himself and his party in power,” the Internet Observatory said.
Vucic, who has vowed to lead Serbia toward European Union membership while also developing ties with China and traditional ally Russia, has been accused of curbing media freedoms and democracy.
The Serbian president has denied the accusations.
Twitter also announced on April 2 that more than 10,000 accounts linked to the governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Honduras, and Indonesia were similarly removed from the social-media platform for spreading inauthentic pro-government content.