Russian government accounts no longer appear to be restricted on Twitter. And a Telegraph survey even shows that their tweets can be suggested in “For You”. A reversal of policy on which Twitter has not yet communicated.
A year ago, before Elon Musk’s final takeover, Twitter placed blocks on official Russian accounts affiliated with the Kremlin. These accounts weren’t technically deleted, but no longer appeared in search results or suggestions. They were restricted. This was the case, for example, of the presidential account of Vladimir Putin or those of the ministries.
As a Telegraph investigation spotted on April 7, 2023, Twitter appears to not only be reversing this policy but also inserting tweets from these accounts into the recommendations.
Official Russian accounts in “for you”
As we have seen ourselves, all you have to do is search for “Putin”, “Kremlin” or “Russia” for the search bar to offer the President of Russia account again (which has the gray sticker like all accounts Twitter officially linked to a government). The same goes for the Russian accounts of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense, or even for those of the embassies.
Official Russian accounts are showing again in Twitter searches as of April 10, 2023. // Source: Screenshot
Tests conducted by the Telegraph show that these accounts also appear again in the suggestions of accounts to follow, in some cases. In addition, by creating new profiles that are not subscribed to Russian pages, Telegraph journalists have seen that tweets from official Russian accounts can now be pushed into the “For You” section. This column is algorithmically managed, and displayed by default, and we do not only see tweets from accounts to which we are subscribed.
This decision, therefore, breaks with the policy undertaken last year by Twitter, at the start of the conflict, which pledged not to amplify or recommend “state-owned government accounts that limit access to free information and are engaged in an armed conflict between States”.
Interviewed by the Telegraph, a former Twitter executive confirmed that the changes noted by the newspaper were part of a “reversal” of the measures taken in 2022. “It would be extremely unlikely that this change happened accidentally, or without the staff of the company had knowledge of it and did not direct it”, indicates this anonymous source.
Twitter has not commented on this new change, as for several months, the mailbox dedicated to the press automatically responds with an emoji in the shape of poop: no media could therefore obtain more details. But it is clear that this is a continuity with Elon Musk’s decisions to lift most of the restrictions imposed before his arrival – he has already done so for Donald Trump or Andrew Tate.
On the Kremlin side, information relayed by Euronews on April 10 suggests that this change in policy at Twitter could pave the way for the social network to be authorized again on Russian soil. It is effectively banned there since Russian government accounts are restricted there. A member of the Duma (lower house in Russia) is said to have officially made the request to the country’s media watchdog.