News Column

Propaganda use of Twitter Studied

May 31, 2012
Twitter

U.S. researchers say they've identified four telltale signs of political propaganda on Twitter, separating it from genuine political views of individual users.

A study by the Georgia Tech School of Computer Science set out to identify "hyperadvocacy," defined as systematic disseminations of information meant to support or discredit an idea -- the textbook definition of propaganda.

The study of tweets from two recent politically charged U.S. events -- the 2010 U.S. Senate race in Nevada and the 2011 debate over raising the U.S. debt ceiling -- found characteristic behaviors of Twitter hyperadvocates, whose actions clearly separate them from the tweeting behavior of typical users, researchers said.

-- Sending high volume of tweets over a short period of time.

-- Retweeting while publishing little original content.

-- Quickly retweeting others' content.

-- Coordinating with other, seeming unrelated users to send duplicate or near-duplicate messages on the same topic simultaneously.

"As social media become more and more ingrained in our culture, and as people use social media more as a source of information about the world, it's important to know the provenance of that information -- where it's coming from and whether it can be trusted," researcher Nick Feamster said in a Georgia Tech release Thursday.

"As a user, you might think the information you see is coming from lots of different sources, but in fact it can be part of an orchestrated campaign."



Source: Copyright United Press International 2012


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