Twitter suspends 2 accounts linked to Russian intelligence after hacking indictment

(Photo by Bethany Clarke/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter has suspended two accounts allegedly used by Russian intelligence officers to spread information hacked from Democrats computers and email accounts during the 2016 US presidential election.

A Twitter spokesperson confirmed on Saturday that the site had suspended accounts for @GUCCIFER_2 and @dcleaks.

The move comes a day after the Justice Department announced the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers, accusing them of a “sustained effort” to penetrate the computers and email accounts of Democrats and the staged releases of documents to impact the election.

The indictment said the hackers targeted Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, to “release that information on the internet under the names DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 and through another entity.”

Friday’s indictment was secured by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Moscow’s interference in the election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign cooperated with the effort. The indictment presented some of the most detailed evidence yet of Russia’s attempt to meddle in the United States’ electoral process.

The two-part operation started with a “spearphishing” effort in early 2016, the indictment said. The Russians hit more than 300 people connected to the Clinton campaign and Democratic political groups.

The Russian intelligence agents registered the website DCLeaks.com and started a Facebook page and Twitter feed claiming they were “American hacktivists,” it said.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the indictment does not name any American citizen, but told reporters that defendants “corresponded with several Americans during the course of the conspiracy through the internet.”

Deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters said there is no evidence tying the Trump campaign to hacking attempts.

In a statement, Russia’s foreign ministry said there was no basis for the charges and said the purpose of the announcement is to “spoil the atmosphere” before Monday’s summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

Earlier this week, Twitter said tens of millions of accounts previously locked due to suspicious activity will be removed from its follower counts.

Twitter’s move to purge locked accounts is part of its larger effort to safeguard the platform amid heightened scrutiny over the proliferation of trolls, fake news and disinformation on some social networks.