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Australian Think Tank Launches Website Tracking Twitter-Based Global Disinformation and Information Operations

April 8th, 2022 14:03

The Aus­tralian Strate­gic Pol­i­cy Insti­tute (ASPI), an Aus­tralian think tank, has launched a new web­site track­ing glob­al dis­in­for­ma­tion and infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions on Twit­ter. By ana­lyz­ing pub­licly acces­si­ble data from Twitter’s Infor­ma­tion Oper­a­tions Archive, the web­site says it made under­stand­ing com­plex data on dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns sim­ple for every­one. Accord­ing to the ASPI website:

Pub­licly avail­able datasets from Twitter’s Trans­paren­cy Cen­tre Infor­ma­tion Oper­a­tions Archive were down­loaded onto a vir­tu­al machine host­ed on Google’s Cloud Plat­form. These datasets includ­ed tweet data (which includ­ed both tweets and retweets), user data and media con­tent.   The tweet data was analysed to auto­mat­i­cal­ly extract the per­cent­age of retweets, per­cent­age of accounts with at least one tweet (includ­ing retweets) in the dataset, per­cent­age of tweets with media, per­cent­age of tweets with links, per­cent­age of tweets with hash­tags and num­ber of likes. The top 10 most retweet­ed accounts, most used hash­tags, shared links, shared domains, most used Twit­ter clients and post­ing pat­terns of the tweets were also cal­cu­lat­ed.   Many of the accounts in the datasets were like­ly repur­posed or pur­chased and their tweets were usu­al­ly spam­my or con­tained com­mer­cial con­tent that was not of inter­est in the scope of this work. This often skewed the appar­ent behav­iour of the accounts and could also make it dif­fi­cult to iden­ti­fy and assess the most sig­nif­i­cant con­tent shared in the datasets. The datasets that con­tained such mate­r­i­al were flagged as hav­ing repur­posed accounts, as a notable fea­ture of that campaign.

Read the rest here.

So far, the ASPI web­site has doc­u­ment­ed influ­ence oper­a­tions orig­i­nat­ing from 17 coun­tries, includ­ing Rus­sia, Chi­na, Iran, and Turkey:

  • In Rus­sia, sev­er­al net­works affil­i­at­ed with the Inter­net Research Agency and Russ­ian state actors attempt­ed to under­mine NATO, exac­er­bate social ten­sions in the US and oth­er coun­tries or depict Ukraine as an unsta­ble or bel­liger­ent coun­try. The net­works ampli­fied con­tent from Russ­ian state-linked media and imper­son­at­ed media out­lets, politi­cians, gov­ern­ment agen­cies, and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions. In total, Twit­ter removed 3613 inau­then­tic accounts asso­ci­at­ed with the influ­ence operations.
  • In Chi­na, sev­er­al net­works of more than 225,000 fake accounts attempt­ed to sow dis­cord about the protest move­ment in Hong Kong or pushed geopo­lit­i­cal nar­ra­tives favor­able to the Com­mu­nist Par­ty of Chi­na (CCP). In total, Twit­ter removed 940 inau­then­tic accounts asso­ci­at­ed with the influ­ence operations.
  • In Iran, sev­er­al net­works asso­ci­at­ed with or direct­ly backed by the Iran­ian gov­ern­ment pro­mot­ed views of the Iran­ian state, tar­get­ed US elec­tions with con­tent sup­port­ive of cer­tain can­di­dates, or ampli­fied dis­in­for­ma­tion about Israel arm­ing neo-Nazis in Ukraine and the Islam­ic State in Syr­ia. In total, Twit­ter removed 770 inau­then­tic accounts asso­ci­at­ed with the influ­ence operations.
  • In Turkey, a net­work of 7,340 fake or com­pro­mised Twit­ter accounts was used to ampli­fy polit­i­cal nar­ra­tives favor­able to Turkey’s Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Par­ty (AKP) and demon­strat­ed strong sup­port for Pres­i­dent Erdo­gan. The influ­ence oper­a­tion has been attrib­uted to the youth wing of the AKP. In total, Twit­ter removed 7340 inau­then­tic accounts asso­ci­at­ed with the influ­ence operation.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report has exten­sive­ly cov­ered influ­ence oper­a­tions on Twit­ter. Recent report­ing has included:

  • In March, we report­ed that Rus­sia is like­ly behind a viral Twit­ter thread claim­ing to show Ukraini­ans tor­tur­ing each other.
  • In March, we report­ed that offi­cial Russ­ian gov­ern­ment accounts are exploit­ing a Twit­ter loop­hole to spread dis­in­for­ma­tion through a coor­di­nat­ed retweet network.
  • In March, we report­ed a clear over­lap on Twit­ter between pro-Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da pushed by inau­then­tic accounts and gen­uine Chi­nese offi­cials ampli­fy­ing the US bioweapons con­spir­a­cy theory.