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Bogus Grass-Roots Politics on Twitter


Network graph

Network graph shows connections between 6,278 accounts that used the hashtag #gop September and October 2010.

Indiana University

Researchers have found evidence that political campaigns and special-interest groups are using scores of fake Twitter accounts to create the impression of broad grass-roots political expression. A team at Indiana University used data-mining and network-analysis techniques to detect the activity.

"We think this technique must be common," says Filippo Menczer, an associate professor at Indiana University and one of the principal investigators on the project. "Wherever there are lots of eyes looking at screens, spammers will be there; so why not with politics?"

The research effort is dubbed the Truthy project, a reference to comedian Stephen Colbert's coinage of the word "truthiness," or a belief held to be true regardless of facts or logic. The goal was to uncover organized propaganda or smear campaigns masquerading as a spontaneous outpouring of opinion on Twitter—a tactic known as fake grass roots, or "Astroturf."

From Technology Review
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