Twitter Inc. (NYSE: TWTR) has put a number on the people it says interacted, almost certainly without their knowledge, with government-related operations in Russia. That number is 677,775.
The announcement was part of a much larger move by social media companies to ferret out how many of their members might have been exploited by similar efforts.
Twitter management wrote in a blog post:
Consistent with our commitment to transparency, we are emailing notifications to 677,775 people in the United States who followed one of these accounts or retweeted or liked a Tweet from these accounts during the election period. Because we have already suspended these accounts, the relevant content on Twitter is no longer publicly available.
Speculation has been rampant about how Russia tried to influence the American election. The most recent prominent one is that Russia may have used the NRA as a conduit to pass money to the campaign coffers of Donald Trump.
Twitter management announced another part of the measures it has taken in reaction to the problem:
As previously announced, we identified and suspended a number of accounts that were potentially connected to a propaganda effort by a Russian government-linked organization known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA).
Twitter is not alone. The New York Times, in October, reported that Facebook had been used by the Russians to reach over 126 million people. The U.S. population is 324 million people.
This may not be the end of the revelations about Russian influence via social media. Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Google said it has been used as a conduit for similar efforts. Some other large social media companies have not provided data.
The news shows the extent to which Russia and other nations or parties that want to influence public opinion can do so, often without being detected until they have completed at least a part of their missions.