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Black trolls matter : Racial and ideological asymmetries in social media disinformation

Freelon, Deen ; Bossetta, Michael LU ; Wells, Chris ; Lukito, Josephine ; Xia, Yiping and Adams, Kirsten (2020) In Social Science Computer Review
Abstract
The recent rise of disinformation and propaganda on social media has attracted strong interest from social scientists. Research on the topic has repeatedly observed ideological asymmetries in disinformation content and reception, wherein conservatives are more likely to view, redistribute, and believe such content. However, preliminary evidence has suggested that race may also play a substantial role in determining the targeting and consumption of disinformation content. Such racial asymmetries may exist alongside, or even instead of, ideological ones. Our computational analysis of 5.2 million tweets by the Russian government-funded “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency sheds light on these possibilities. We find stark... (More)
The recent rise of disinformation and propaganda on social media has attracted strong interest from social scientists. Research on the topic has repeatedly observed ideological asymmetries in disinformation content and reception, wherein conservatives are more likely to view, redistribute, and believe such content. However, preliminary evidence has suggested that race may also play a substantial role in determining the targeting and consumption of disinformation content. Such racial asymmetries may exist alongside, or even instead of, ideological ones. Our computational analysis of 5.2 million tweets by the Russian government-funded “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency sheds light on these possibilities. We find stark differences in the numbers of unique accounts and tweets originating from ostensibly liberal, conservative, and Black left-leaning individuals. But diverging from prior empirical accounts, we find racial presentation—specifically, presenting as a Black activist—to be the most effective predictor of disinformation engagement by far. Importantly, these results could only be detected once we disaggregated Black-presenting accounts from non-Black liberal accounts. In addition to its contributions to the study of ideological asymmetry in disinformation content and reception, this study also underscores the general relevance of race to disinformation studies. (Less)
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epub
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in
Social Science Computer Review
publisher
SAGE Publications
external identifiers
  • scopus:85083063112
ISSN
1552-8286
DOI
10.1177/0894439320914853
language
English
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yes
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46aacc97-f266-4a24-9374-551039b944b7
date added to LUP
2020-10-15 23:18:22
date last changed
2021-02-17 06:12:32
@article{46aacc97-f266-4a24-9374-551039b944b7,
  abstract     = {The recent rise of disinformation and propaganda on social media has attracted strong interest from social scientists. Research on the topic has repeatedly observed ideological asymmetries in disinformation content and reception, wherein conservatives are more likely to view, redistribute, and believe such content. However, preliminary evidence has suggested that race may also play a substantial role in determining the targeting and consumption of disinformation content. Such racial asymmetries may exist alongside, or even instead of, ideological ones. Our computational analysis of 5.2 million tweets by the Russian government-funded “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency sheds light on these possibilities. We find stark differences in the numbers of unique accounts and tweets originating from ostensibly liberal, conservative, and Black left-leaning individuals. But diverging from prior empirical accounts, we find racial presentation—specifically, presenting as a Black activist—to be the most effective predictor of disinformation engagement by far. Importantly, these results could only be detected once we disaggregated Black-presenting accounts from non-Black liberal accounts. In addition to its contributions to the study of ideological asymmetry in disinformation content and reception, this study also underscores the general relevance of race to disinformation studies.},
  author       = {Freelon, Deen and Bossetta, Michael and Wells, Chris and Lukito, Josephine and Xia, Yiping and Adams, Kirsten},
  issn         = {1552-8286},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {04},
  publisher    = {SAGE Publications},
  series       = {Social Science Computer Review},
  title        = {Black trolls matter : Racial and ideological asymmetries in social media disinformation},
  url          = {https://lup.lub.lu.se/search/ws/files/85420786/black_trolls_matter_sscr_accepted.pdf},
  doi          = {10.1177/0894439320914853},
  year         = {2020},
}