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Twitter probes unusual traffic, possibly by "state-sponsored actors"

Twitter removes accounts trying to discouraging voting

Twitter is investigating unusual activity coming from locations in Saudi Arabia and China and possibly involving state-sponsored activities, the social-media company said Monday.

In a blog post, the company said it became aware on Nov. 15 of a problem involving support forms users employ to contact Twitter about issues with their accounts and had fixed the trouble by the next day. 

Hackers may have discovered the country codes of phone numbers associated with Twitter accounts, the company said, adding that it was notifying those affected. That said, other accounts the company was not able to identify may also have been affected, Twitter added.

During its investigation, Twitter said it detected unusual activity, with "a large number of inquiries coming from individual IP addresses located in China and Saudi Arabia." The company added: "it is possible that some of these IP addresses may have ties to state-sponsored actors."

Twitter said it had alerted law enforcement of its findings, which come at a difficult time for it and other social-media companies and further fuel privacy concerns after numerous failures at protecting people's online content. Facebook, for instance, only three days ago warned that a security glitch may have let third-party apps access the private photos of as many as 6.8 million users. 

The security lapses also come as social-media companies work to repair the damage for failing to stop Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Findings released by the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday concluded that posts from phony Russian accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube prompted 300 million-plus engagements between 2015 and 2017.