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NATO, Robotrolling use in Info-war is increasing over the social media

NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence (STRATCOMCOE) published the last report on Robotrolling: The increasing proportion of anonymous accounts active during key political moments indicate that anonymity is being abused to cloak manipulation on social networks

Robotrolling is increasing over the social network. It was unveiled by NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence (STRATCOMCOE) in the last report on the phenomenon related to the info-war. “President Trump’s whirlwind tour of Europe in July provoked ferocious discussion about NATO on social media – it’s reported -. Anonymous human-controlled English-language accounts, expressing positions in support of or in opposition to the US President, dominated online conversations. Compared to the levels observed in the Spring issue of Robotrolling, the volume of English-language messages has more than doubled. The increasing proportion of anonymous accounts active during key political moments indicate that anonymity is being abused to cloak manipulation on social networks. We call on social media companies to keep investing in countering platform misuse”.

Russian-language material closely echoed and amplified the narratives popularised by Russian state-media

“The social media companies Reddit and Twitter have released lists of accounts identified as originating from the notorious St Petersburg ‘troll factory’—the Internet Research Agency (IRA). – STRATCOMCOE explained -. In this issue, we present the first quantitative analysis comparing English- and Russian-language posts from these accounts. The IRA bombarded citizens in Russia and its neighbouring states with pro-Kremlin propaganda. For English, fake accounts posed as Trump supporters, and argued both sides of the Black Lives Matter controversy. Russian-language material closely echoed and amplified the narratives popularised by Russian state-media. Amongst the accounts identified by Twitter, 26 also posted about NATO in the Baltics and Poland. Our algorithm correctly identified 24 of these as bot accounts. The other two accounts were anonymous human-controlled (troll) accounts”.

The Info-war Robotrolling until 31 July 2018

“During the period 1 May – 31 July 2018, Russian-language bots created 49% of all Russian-language messages about NATO in the Baltic States and Poland – the Alliance report added -. Of accounts posting in Russian, 36% were predominantly automated. In comparison, bots made up 14% of accounts tweeting in English and created 19% of all English-language messages for the quarter. We analysed Twitter-mentions of NATO together with one or more of the host countries Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. The total number of posts considered was 14 600, of which 23% were in Russian. The number of active users was 9 100. Both the number of posts and the number of users more than doubled compared to the period February – April 2018. In July 2018, the NATO summit coincided with an increase in the proportion of English-language posts about NATO originating both from automated (bot) accounts, and from anonymous human-controlled accounts”.

As Twitter has moved to restrict automated users, anonymous, human-controlled accounts are becoming increasingly prevalent, both for the English and Russian-language spaces

“For the first time, we observed that human-created Russian-language messages about each of the four states were in the majority – STRATCOMCOE underlined -. However, bots were still responsible for nearly 50% of all Russian-language content. The proportion of activity from anonymous or low-quality accounts was comparable for both English- and Russian-language spaces—approximately 35%. This percentage is significantly higher for English than expected simply as a result of Twitter banning automated accounts. As a result, we see the Russian-language space as currently dominated by inauthentic activity. As Twitter has moved to restrict automated users, anonymous, human-controlled accounts are becoming increasingly prevalent, both for the English and Russian-language spaces. President Trump’s trip to Europe in July 2018 provoked unprecedented English-language Twitter activity about NATO in the Baltics and Poland. In the past, English-language spikes have been the result of bot activity, but in July 44% of English-language messages were traced back to anonymous, human-operated accounts compared with an average of 25% since March 2017”.

The complete STRATCOMCOE report

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