Characterizing the Use of Images in State-Sponsored Information Warfare Operations by Russian Trolls on Twitter

Savvas Zannettou, Tristan Caulfield, Barry Bradlyn, Emiliano De Cristofaro, Gianluca Stringhini, Jeremy Blackburn
2019 Zenodo  
State-sponsored organizations are increasingly linked to efforts aimed to exploit social media for information warfare and ma- nipulating 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 tex- tual content, in order to increase the engagement and the cred- ibility of their posts. In this paper, we present the
more » ... irst 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 popu- lar Web communities like Twitter, Reddit, 4chan's Politically Incorrect board (/pol/), and Gab, with respect to the dissemina- tion of images. We find that the extensive image posting activ- ity 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.
doi:10.5281/zenodo.3553582 fatcat:yh3kijeix5adzosttu3quzznkm