About one million tweets were tied to 770 accounts that Twitter said it had identified as originating from state-backed trolls in Iran. It says it hopes to encourage more independent research and investigation into misinformation campaigns on its platform by releasing this data to the public.
Their apparent mission was to flood American social media with controversial material to galvanize political hostilities ahead of the 2016 election.
Twitter yesterday released a huge cache of pictures, videos and tweets related to "potentially state-backed information operations". The files not only contains text to the tweets, but also images, GIFs, and videos the internet trolls used.
"We are guided by the fundamental principle of transparency and would like to understand how exactly is the foreign influence and implementation of information campaigns". But researchers said the Iranian operation relied on many identities, and at times bots, to push the preferred messages of the Iranian government over a six-year period. But the Iranian network at times did dabble in US politics, including one account called @usresistance1, created in April 2018, that advocated for Trump's impeachment.
The data release includes the content of tweets from these accounts, which provides a richer look at how these accounts operated.
On 23 June 2016, the day of the European Union referendum, Russian Federation mobilised its army of trolls, which at one stage included 3,800 accounts.
In other cases, the Atlantic Council found accounts in this network that appeared to be average Americans - a game designer from California, for example, or a reporter from Seattle.
"There has been a lot of misunderstanding on the IRA operation, notably because the public was working with bits and pieces of data", said Camille Francois, director of research for social media data analytics firm Graphika. "These types of tactics have been around for far longer than Twitter has existed - they will adapt and change as the geopolitical terrain evolves worldwide and as new technologies emerge", the social media giant added. Why is Twitter opening up this treasure trove of nefarious tweets?