Popular social media platform Twitter came under fire for alleged manipulation of its algorithm.
"Manipulative Algorithm" made it to the top three trends in the U.S. on Friday, with over 2,600 tweets sent referring to the issue.
Users complained about manipulative algorithms, saying that they are bombarded by content from people they don't follow, as well as ads, rather than posts made by people they actually follow.
Twitter’s newly updated algorithm has promoted posts by terrorist sympathizers ahead of Türkiye’s presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, a monthlong study by the Turkish newspaper Sabah analyzing suggested tweets found.
The social media platform’s algorithm, which now divides the timelines into “For you” and “Following” sections, deliberately conceals apolitical content or content created by supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Instead, it puts tweets on users’ timelines from individual and bot accounts of supporters of the PKK terrorist organization and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).
Such an incident occurs less than two months before the much-anticipated vote and raises questions about purposeful manipulation. It also considers the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where the consulting firm worked for Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign in the United States and gained access to the personal information of millions of Facebook accounts for voter profiling and targeting. SCL Elexion, the parent group of Cambridge Analytica, has opened offices in Türkiye as well.
Despite being for real users, Twitter has also become a breeding ground for bots effectively wielded by terrorist groups and individuals serving specific purposes.
In the past month, since the Feb. 6 earthquakes hit Türkiye’s southeast, a disinformation campaign began to spread on especially social media platforms to incite fear, concern, and panic among citizens.
Sabah’s report delved into Twitter posts made between Feb. 6 and March 13 regarding the earthquakes and discovered that of the 266,334,080 million posts made by 21,493,445 accounts, a total of 5,362,720 were made by bot accounts, corresponding to roughly 25.55% of the total.
The report found that some 27% of these 5.3 million posts, 1,493,256 to be exact, were made by bot accounts managed by FETÖ and the PKK.
Moreover, 33% of all posts mentioning the word “ordu,” Turkish for “the army,” and accusing the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) of being late in its response by two days were made by bots.
Twitter is also awash with bot accounts that emerged after municipalities run by the CHP started allocating bigger budgets to agencies organizing social media campaigns. For instance, many bot accounts shared the same tweet saying they were a villager from the central province of Konya who “cannot afford the costs of his/her tractor” and would no longer vote for the AK Party, despite voting for the party for two decades.