One of the most notable accounts closed by twitter was @DarthPutinKGB, an account that parodied Russian president Vladimir Putin. In response, European twitter users have begun using the #NoGulagForDarthPutinKGB hashtag to express their discontent over the move, reports The Financial Times.
Other accounts that have been closed include @SovietSergey, a parody of Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov (with the tagline “I deny, therefore I am”) and @AmbYakovenkoNot, a parody of Russia’s ambassador to the UK.
A spokesperson at Twitter told the Financial Times that the company could not explain the account closures because of its policy on parody, commentary and fan accounts.
However, Ben Nimmo, an information defence fellow at the Atlantic Council think-tank, told the FT that Russian “trolls” – state-supported social media spammers – bombarded Twitter’s content flagging systems with reports of hate speech, which can cause the system to automatically close down a Twitter account.
Similar closures have occurred in the past after Russian social media trolls turned their sights on Ukrainian bloggers who used their Twitter accounts to spread anti-Russian messages.
NATO has called Russia information warfare campaign “the largest and most intense NATO has faced since the end of the Cold War.” NATO and numerous countries within the alliance have discussed forming their own information groups to counteract Russia’s propaganda efforts.