Detection case studies

Table of contents

  1. Attacks on information transmission
    1. Communication disruption
      1. Hashtag flooding
      2. Hashtag squatting
    2. Content boosting
      1. Capture influential attention
      2. Immediate sharing

Attacks on information transmission

Communication disruption

Hashtag flooding

To disrupt or suppress speech, one can use bots to “flood” a hashtag used by a group of people to communicate, that is to say to massively publish tweets including the hashtag along with irrelevant or worthless content, random characters and symbols or even no content at all. This makes it very difficult for people to actually share information and communicate through this hashtag, which is usually abandoned shortly after.

This was the case at the end of 2014, beginning of 2015 during popular uprisings in Mexico following the disappearance, in September 2014, of forty-six students headed to a protest. The governmental sphere was blamed by some media outlets. After the scandal, activists launched the hashtag #YaMeCanse (I am tired) to share information on the subject and organize protests. The trending hashtag was soon flooded by spambots, making it unusable.

Hashtag squatting

Another effective method can be the creations of fake hashtags similar to the one targeted but including a typo, the overall goal being to diminish the magnitude of the original hashtag.

Content boosting

Capture influential attention

Some bots reply to, tag or mention an influential user in tweets with a link to a disinformation article in a synchronized and repeated way until she or he takes an interest in the content and either reads it (and perhaps believe it) or shares it - without necessarily (proof-)reading it.

Immediate sharing

There are bots made to retweet content published or shared by an account (often authentic and legitimate accounts) only after a few seconds. Strategically, they automatically retweet whatever content is published in order to boost said content and make it viral. It is very likely that these bots work with or are coordinated with the holder(s) of the account whose content is being retweeted.

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