Our latest paper “Neutral bots probe political bias on social media” by Wen Chen, Diogo Pacheco, Kai-Cheng Yang & Fil Menczer just came out in Nature Communications. We find strong evidence of political bias on Twitter, but not as many think: (1) it is conservative rather than liberal bias, and (2) it results from user interactions (and abuse) rather than platform algorithms. We tracked neutral “drifter” bots to probe political biases. In the figure, we see the drifters in yellow and a sample of their friends and followers colored according to political alignment. Large nodes are accounts sharing a lot of low-credibility links.Continue reading Probing political bias on Twitter with drifter bots
On 15 September 2020, The Washington Post published an article by Isaac Stanley-Becker titled “Pro-Trump youth group enlists teens in secretive campaign likened to a ‘troll farm,’ prompting rebuke by Facebook and Twitter.” The article reported on a network of accounts run by teenagers in Phoenix, who were coordinated and paid by an affiliate of conservative youth organization Turning Point USA. These accounts posted identical messages amplifying political narratives, including false claims about COVID-19 and electoral fraud. The same campaign was run on Twitter and Facebook, and both platforms suspended some of the accounts following queries from Stanley-Becker. The report was based in part on a preliminary analysis we conducted at the request of The Post. In this brief we provide further details about our analysis.Continue reading Evidence of a coordinated network amplifying inauthentic narratives in the 2020 US election
Among the millions of real people tweeting about the presidential race, there are also a lot accounts operated by fake people, or “bots.” Politicians and regular users alike use these accounts to increase their follower bases and push messages. PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien reports on how CNetS computer scientists can analyze Twitter handles to determine whether or not they are bots.
Findings by CNetS researchers on social media indicators of election results received significant coverage in the national press. The paper More Tweets, More Votes: Social Media as a Quantitative Indicator of Political Behavior by Joseph Digrazia, Karissa McKelvey, Johan Bollen, and Fabio Rojas was presented at the 2013 Meeting of the American Sociological Association in NYC. It was covered by NPR, The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, C-SPAN, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and many other media.
I was honored to give a keynote presentation at PLEAD 2012, the CIKM Workshop on Politics, Elections and Data. My talk was titled The diffusion of political memes in social media. The workshop was held in beautiful Maui Hawaii, but alas, I could not attend in person and gave the presentation remotely via skype 🙁
Astroturfers, Twitter-bombers and smear campaigners need beware this election season as a group of leading Indiana University information and computer scientists today unleashed Truthy.indiana.edu, a sophisticated new Twitter-based research tool that combines data mining, social network analysis and crowdsourcing to uncover deceptive tactics and misinformation leading up to the Nov. 2 elections. Combing through thousands of tweets per hour in search of political keywords, the team based out of IU’s School of Informatics and Computing will isolate patterns of interest and then insert those memes (ideas or patterns passed by imitation) into Twitter’s application programming interface (API) to obtain more information about the meme’s history.
In the run-up to the mid-term elections, Truthy uncovered a number of abuses such as robot-driven traffic to politician websites and networks of bot accounts controlled by individuals to promote fake news. These findings have been widely covered in the press, with mentions in The Atlantic, MIT Technology Review, PC World, New Scientist, NPR, Ars Technica, Fast Company, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times Magazine, and many other media. Read more here and here.