Can disinformation be traced? USelection2020

Tracing disinformation

Political parties in the United States, and the rest of the world, know fake news to be a threat to democratic process. News media often partakes in the conversation about disinformation and voter suppression. All parties consider the culprit to be the opposing party or foreign actors (state or independent).

Election management bodies consider disinformation a serious threat, but usually lack precise tools to address it. We know that disinformation exists and is affecting modern democracy, but can we trace the sources of disinformation? The simple answer is “Yes, but”.

Using Social Media AI Analytics we can trace disinformation sources – given a clear definition and a mandate

The challenge of addressing disinformation isn’t the technology, but establishing a clear definition and a mandate. Put simply,

  1. What is fake news, disinformation, or misinformation?
  2. What can we do about it?

I have discussed this terminology and the challenges of tracing disinformation in an e-book, Using Social Media Data to Transform Election Monitoring.

In 2019, we spent some time analyzing social media accounts that spread untrustworthy or unethical information. By untrustworthy, we mean unreliable or false. By unethical, we mean racist or hateful content that targets a group of people. We referred to such accounts as polluters, simply because there isn’t a Canadian or an American legal term for the culprits. We observed that polluters share three properties, they:

  1. Have similar or identical arguments
  2. Create a tight web of connection to other polluters
  3. Target the ‘Five Eye Countries’: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States

The list below presents the top 40 polluters on Twitter in the last few months of 2019. Luckily, the public continues to report these accounts to @twitter and many of them are disabled or deleted by now.

Top Polluters on Twitter

1) @Evenings_Star 2) @Tjooitink 3) @heathrodgirs 4) @RoboHoward 5) @KAreYouSerious 6) @lafleurmtl 7) @FouadBoussetta 8) @bgallagb 9) @hydroqueen 10) @mmaureen7 11) @AlbertGoldie 12) @CONDESCENDANT 13) @HopeAldridge 14) @MurfAD