Twitter Blue accounts spread misinformation about the Russian war in Ukraine

When Elon Musk bought Twitter, he said he would support free speech and fight censorship there. However, he made it possible for everyone to buy blue checkmarks with Twitter Blue, so now these paid accounts are spreading false information about the Russian war, putting Ukraine in a bad light. BBC reported about such cases.

  • Previously, Twitter was giving Blue checkmarks to verified accounts: users got used to the fact that it is a sign that the account can be trusted. “Blue ticks” were given to accounts of well-known media, famous personalities, and business accounts.
  • After Twitter Blue became available as a subscription, a bunch of accounts with such a checkmark appeared, spreading false information about Ukraine and the full-scale war launched by Russia, aiming at the Western audience: Europeans and Americans.
  • The BBC provides several examples of such misinformation. For example, Twitter Blue users spread information that allegedly during protests in France, policemen are being shot with American rifles brought from Ukraine. The publication is illustrated with a photo of two rifles. Posts gained millions of views. BBC traced the post to pro-Kremlin Telegram channels, and the photo itself turned out to be an image from the shooting competition near Moscow in 2012.
  • Also, several blue ticks spread the information that Russia found factories in Ukraine that grow children up to 2-7 years old either for organs or for sexual slavery. As wild as this “news” sounds, due to the fact that it was posted by several accounts with a blue checkmark, it received thousands of likes and retweets:
Twitter Blue misinformation
Image: BBC
  • BBC Verify traced the news to The People’s Voice (also known as YourNewsWire), which fact-checking organizations describe as one of the biggest purveyors of fake news on the internet. The idea that in Ukraine people are used for organ trafficking is also actively promoted by the Russian media.
  • At the end of June 2023, a Russian missile killed eight people in Kramatorsk. The blue ticks got to work here too, and spread misinformation that the missile was mistakenly launched by Ukrainians, it suddenly changed its trajectory and destroyed a military facility with foreign mercenaries:
Twitter Blue misinformation
Image: BBC
  • This post is a bingo of Russian propaganda: there are missiles that magically change their trajectory, and “foreign mercenaries”, and Ukraine, which shoots at its own population. The publication was viewed by a million users. Of course, there are no actual proofs.
  • Another disinformation campaign appeared to work because few Western readers are interested in Ukrainian legislation. In an interview with the BBC, President Volodymyr Zelenskyi said that there will be no presidential elections in Ukraine in 2024, because according to the Constitution, presidential and parliamentary elections are not held until the martial law is ended. Loyal Russian blue ticks as well as American journalists carried this quote in the context that “Zelensky abolished democracy” (former Fox News host Tucker Carslon). Blue ticks spread this piece of misinformation and it was reposted hundreds of thousands of times.
  • Twitter declined to comment on the matter when asked by BBC Verify.

Some other recent news about Twitter include the social media intentionally silencing tweets about Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as massively shadowbanning Ukrainian users.