How to spot propaganda on Twitter: Study identifies patterns of ‘hyperadvocacy’

As Election Day 2012 draws nearer, the “Twitterverse” promises to light up again and again with explosions of political opinion. But which tweets are the genuinely expressed feelings of individual users and which are systematic disseminations of information meant to support or discredit an idea—the textbook definition of propaganda?

A new study out of the Georgia Tech School of Computer Science calls such patterns of communication “hyperadvocacy.” The study identifies four characteristic behaviors of Twitter hyperadvocates, whose actions clearly separate them from the tweeting behavior of typical users. Associate Professor Nick Feamster directed the study, working with former postdoctoral researcher Cristian Lumezanu and Associate Professor Hans Klein of Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy.

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