For Whom the Bot Tolls: A Neural Networks Approach to Measuring Political Orientation of Twitter Bots in Russia

Denis Stukal, Sergey Sanovich, Joshua A. Tucker, Richard Bonneau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Computational propaganda and the use of automated accounts in social media have recently become the focus of public attention, with alleged Russian government activities abroad provoking particularly widespread interest. However, even in the Russian domestic context, where anecdotal evidence of state activity online goes back almost a decade, no public systematic attempt has been made to dissect the population of Russian social media bots by their political orientation. We address this gap by developing a deep neural network classifier that separates pro-regime, anti-regime, and neutral Russian Twitter bots. Our method relies on supervised machine learning and a new large set of labeled accounts, rather than externally obtained account affiliations or orientation of elites. We also illustrate the use of our method by applying it to bots operating in Russian political Twitter from 2015 to 2017 and show that both pro- and anti-Kremlin bots had a substantial presence on Twitter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSAGE Open
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019

Keywords

  • Russia
  • Twitter bots
  • natural language processing
  • neural network
  • propaganda
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)

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