RTE: The toxic world of online comments and social media posts. “For the past number of years, we have been trawling this murky underworld trying to understand when and how the language we use online changed from friendly debate to what the researcher Emma Jane has referred to as ‘e-bile’. The internet of today is a far cry from the early days when cyber-utopians heralded in a new era of human collaboration and communication. To them the internet was a place where individuals could come together to create helpful communities and where ‘citizen journalists’ could combat political agendas from the ground up. This cyber-utopia was going to make the offline world a better place too. So how have we got to a stage where comments sections have become no go zones for many users?”
CNN: FBI Director Wray says foreign influence campaigns targeting US have continued ‘virtually unabated’. “FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday that while the US had not seen a “material impact on election infrastructure” from foreign adversaries in the recent midterm elections, foreign influence campaigns pitting Americans against each other on social media have continued ‘virtually unabated.'”
Politico: ‘Sustained and ongoing’ disinformation assault targets Dem presidential candidates. “A POLITICO review of recent data extracted from Twitter and from other platforms, as well as interviews with data scientists and digital campaign strategists, suggests that the goal of the coordinated barrage appears to be undermining the nascent candidacies through the dissemination of memes, hashtags, misinformation and distortions of their positions. But the divisive nature of many of the posts also hints at a broader effort to sow discord and chaos within the Democratic presidential primary.”
University of Hawai’i at Manoa: From Facebook to the Streets: Russian Troll Ads and Black Lives Matter Protests. “Online trolling is typically studied in the IS literature as an uncoordinated, anarchic activity. Coordinated, strategic online trolling is not well understood despite its prevalence on social media. To shed light on this prevailing activity, the present study examines the proposition that coordinated online trolling is timed to leverage macro societal unrest. In testing this proposition, we analyzes the dynamics of the Russian State’s coordinated trolling campaign against the United States beginning in 2015. Using the May 2018 release of all Russian Troll Facebook advertisements, this study constructs a topic model of the content of these ads. The relationship between ad topics and the frequency of Black Lives Matter protests is examined. We argue that the frequency of Black Lives Matter protests proxies for civil unrest and divisiveness in the United States. The study finds that Russian ads related to police brutality were issued to coincide with periods of higher unrest. This work also finds that during periods of relative calm (evidenced by lower frequency of protests) Russian ads were relatively innocuous.” The entire paper is available as a PDF.
National Security Archive: Exploring the Russian Social Media Campaign in Charlottesville. “The existence of social media campaigns connected by U.S. intelligence to the Russian Government and aimed at destabilizing American politics continues to be the topic of much discussion and study, but case studies accessible to most social media users in America are difficult to produce given the scope of these operations. This posting seeks to provide such a case study as it relates to the IRA’s tactic of playing up both sides of a critical issue. While Russian support to the Trump campaign on social media and through the release of information obtained through cyberattack is well recognized, less well known is IRA amplification of political beliefs and voices specifically selected to increase polarization in American discourse.”
CBC: Twitter trolls stoked debates about immigrants and pipelines in Canada, data show. “Twitter trolls linked to suspected foreign influence campaigns stoked controversy over pipelines and immigration in Canada, according to a CBC/Radio-Canada analysis of 9.6 million tweets from accounts since deleted. Roughly 21,600 tweets from those troll accounts directly targeted Canadians — many of them with messages critical of Canadian pipeline projects and tweets that highlighted divisions over Canada’s policies on immigration and refugees.”
The New Times: Social media trolls, influencers set for a fight in Nigeria’s elections. “As Nigeria’s Feb 16 presidential election approaches, tensions are ramping up across the country and like elsewhere around the world social media has become one of the most fraught battlegrounds. Online, candidates and their respective political parties are engaging individuals, usually young men and some women, who have been creating fake accounts daily to direct conversations, promote agenda, expose the shortcomings of opponents, and test the ground for Election Day when unofficial results will be emerging on social media.”