Propaganda use of Twitter studied

May 31, 2012 at 2:41 PM
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ATLANTA, May 31 (UPI) -- 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."

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