Characterizing the use of images in state-sponsored informationwarfare operations by russian trolls on Twitter

Savvas Zannettou, Tristan Caulfield, Barry Bradlyn, Emiliano De Cristofaro, Gianluca Stringhini, Jeremy Blackburn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

State-sponsored organizations are increasingly linked to efforts aimed to exploit social media for information warfare and manipulating public opinion. Typically, their activities rely on a number of social network accounts they control, aka trolls, that post and interact with other users disguised as "regular"users. These accounts often use images and memes, along with textual content, in order to increase the engagement and the credibility of their posts. In this paper, we present the first study of images shared by state-sponsored accounts by analyzing a ground truth dataset of 1.8M images posted to Twitter by accounts controlled by the Russian Internet Research Agency. First, we analyze the content of the images as well as their posting activity. Then, using Hawkes Processes, we quantify their influence on popular Web communities like Twitter, Reddit, 4chan's Politically Incorrect board (/pol/), and Gab, with respect to the dissemination of images.We find that the extensive image posting activity of Russian trolls coincides with real-world events (e.g., the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville), and shed light on their targets as well as the content disseminated via images. Finally, we show that the trolls were more effective in disseminating politics-related imagery than other images.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 14th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, ICWSM 2020
PublisherAAAI Press
Pages774-785
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781577357889
StatePublished - 2020
Event14th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, ICWSM 2020 - Atlanta, Virtual, United States
Duration: Jun 8 2020Jun 11 2020

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 14th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, ICWSM 2020

Conference

Conference14th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, ICWSM 2020
CountryUnited States
CityAtlanta, Virtual
Period6/8/206/11/20

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications

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