They send tweets constantly, many of them just retweets. They connive with other users to send the same exact tweets at the same. Exact. Time.
They're Twitter propagandists, and, according to a new study from Georgia Tech's College of Computing, they've all got the same M.O.
Georgia Tech's Cristian Lumezan, Nick Feamster and Hans Klein discovered that Twitter propagandists, or "users who consistently express the same opinion or ideology," tend to send high volumes of tweets in short periods of time, retweet without adding much original commentary, retweet others' content fairly quickly and coordinate with others to send duplicate or near-duplicate tweets on the same topic at the same time.
To come up with these findings, they studied nearly 100,000 tweets from the 2010 Nevada Senate race (hashtagged #nvsen) and the 2011 debt ceiling debate (hashtagged #debtceiling). Using specific algorithms, they determined groups of tweeters with similar political ideologies, then identified users exhibiting hyperadvocate behavior, defined in the study as "the consistent dissemination of content that subscribes to a single ideology or opinion."
In identifying these behaviors, Georgia Tech researchers hoped to make a step towards understanding how Twitter can be used to spread propaganda in the same way that traditional media outlets have been used in the past.
"We rely on media to serve as our window on the world, but media can also distort what we see. It can act as a lens or as a filter, enlarging some topics and minimizing others," said Klein in a press release. "Such media effects have long been studied in the mass media. This research looks for similar propaganda-like effects in new media like Twitter."
In a separate study released in April, researchers from Georgia Tech, as well as from Carnegie Mellon University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, identified the worst kinds of tweets on Twitter. While propaganda-spreading retweets weren't mentioned on their list, it's likely they have something to do with the fact that only 36 percent of tweets are worth reading.
You can read the rest of Georgia Tech's study here. Do you encounter a lot of propaganda on Twitter? Let us know in the comments!
[Hat Tip: BuzzFeed]