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Florida senator takes Twitter to task over hoax

Tim Johnson, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

Twitter, Nelson said, is "taking some positive steps but a lot more has got to be done. I'm not sure that they have the ability to figure out all these nefarious actors.

"They are taking down accounts and fake tweets as fast as they can. Is it as fast as they should be and are they looking at the foreign actors?" Nelson asked.

Nelson, a Democrat who is ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, said disinformation on social media platforms "scares me to death," especially in an election year.

Two days after the Parkland massacre, special prosecutor Robert Mueller filed an indictment charging 13 Russians with carrying out a campaign of "information warfare" against the United States, partly through the use of fake tweets and stories on social media promoted by robotic networks, sometimes referred to as bots.

"We ought to do this before the 2018 elections because these guys are coming fast and furious," Nelson said. "If it's not the Russians, it's certainly the people who are going to use untrue things to try to tear down their opponents in an election."

He added that the hoax perpetrated on the Herald, "is going to happen to me in the election." Nelson is running for his fourth six-year Senate term in November.

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Aides to Nelson said Twitter executives, including Carlos Monje, director of the firm's public policy office, told them that the company plans to strengthen ways to verify accounts, perhaps showing formal affiliations of account holders to groups or institutions, like sports leagues, corporations or political bodies.

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