Twitter suspends 300 accounts after surge of activity on Donnelly NMH post

Fianna Fáil and the Department of Health asked social media firm to investigate mass retweeting

Twitter has suspended over 300 accounts for spam violations following a surge of activity on a tweet posted by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

Fianna Fáil and the Department of Health had asked Twitter to investigate the mass retweeting of Mr Donnelly's tweet of a video relating to the Cabinet decision to support the relocation of the National Maternity Hospital.

It had garnered hundreds of retweets in a matter of minutes - many from accounts which seemed to be based overseas, particularly with Turkish language usernames.

The Department said in a statement that neither it nor the Minister “have paid for any promotional activity in relation to his social media accounts”. A spokesman for Mr Donnelly added: “We have asked Twitter to investigate”.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Twitter said “We remain vigilant about coordinated activity on our service - using both technology and human review, we proactively and routinely tackle attempts at platform manipulation and mitigate them at scale by taking enforcement action on accounts for violating our policies in this area.”

“In this instance, our teams have taken action and suspended over 300 accounts for violations of our platform manipulation and spam policy - specifically for attempts to artificially incluence conversations.”

Party sources pointed out similar activity had occurred on tweets from the Fianna Fáil account and, although at a lower level, on a tweet by Fianna Fáil senator Lorraine Clifford Lee about the NMH.

“It was nowhere near the extent of Stephen Donnelly’s tweet, but there was some unusual activity on that and we flagged that as well,” one source.

“It’s no coincidence it happened as well to Lorraine Clifford Lee,” another source said. “It seems odd that it’s all NMH stuff that has been targeted. That doesn’t seem coincidental.”

The volume of retweets drew comment from the opposition, with Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane commenting: "Going by the retweets there are a lot of people in Turkey taking a keen interest in the NMH".

It is understood Twitter has already taken action on some accounts for breaches of spam policy, following complaints from the party.