Content warning: this blog contains racist and anti-semitic language and terminology associated with sexual assault.

Harassment campaigns by swarms of trolls online are disruptive and destructive to their targets’ lives, but what these campaigns actually look like is somewhat nebulous. The people in the crosshairs of a troll campaign sometimes get bombarded with death and rape threats. They may also get bombarded with a flood of notifications that disrupts their social media feeds and device usage for the duration of the bombardment. …


Filed to: WTF

On February 5, 2021, data scientist @conspirator0 tweeted a thread about a cluster of 18 Twitter accounts that have been repurposed — and verified — as official accounts of the state government of Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Source: @Conspirator0/@ZellaQuixote

Most old tweets from the original handles have been deleted and replies and mentions sent to the original handles are still online. The followers on each account appear to be mostly people who followed the previous handles and likely don’t realize they are now following an account associated with a Mexican state government.

The new accounts include state offices…


Pennsylvania Senator Doug Mastriano seems to be building a Facebook army.

I stumbled upon a newly created network of Facebook groups supporting Pennsylvania Senator Doug Mastriano, consisting of groups representing 39 counties in PA. It’s a tactic reminiscent of the proliferation of anti-lockdown Facebook groups we saw early on in the pandemic when people began protesting mitigation efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The groups are admin’ed by real people who appear to be volunteers for Mastriano. …


A social media researcher and multimedia artist shows how medical misinformation spreads so far, so fast

Network graph of 37,275 public “Plandemic” Facebook posts from April 8 to May 8, 2020. Images courtesy of author

A slick, professionally produced documentary featuring discredited virologist Judy Mikovits went viral last week. The plot of “Plandemic” is a convergence of various conspiracy theories, which is why it appealed to such a wide audience. I was curious about how the video spread so far, so fast. So I used data from the social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle to create three kinds of data visualizations of how it went viral, using two different datasets for comparison.

CrowdTangle datasets

  • 37,274 public Facebook posts containing the keyword “Plandemic” from April 8 to May 8, 2020
  • 23,681 public Facebook posts containing “Judy Mikovits” from April…

The word “bot” has become a catch-all to describe anything on social media that people perceive as suspicious or contrived, but overuse of the term has rendered it meaningless and current methods for “bot identification” are… lacking.

A funny Mexican meme about sycophantic accounts that supported former Mexican senator Omar Fayad

One thing I’ve noticed in nearly 5 years of tracking Twitter bots is how in every country where they are active, people not only recognize what they are but they also give them nicknames. Some examples:

Mexico: peñabots
Honduras: JOH-bots
Peru: Fujitrolls
Turkey: AK-trolls or Army of 6000
Egypt: legan electronya or لجان الكترونية (electronic committee)
Guatemala: Net centers
Argentina: Call centers
Puerto Rico: Fotutos51


Several researchers from around the world have published analysis in Spanish language regarding social media manipulation surrounding topics and trends supporting the recent military-civilian coup in Bolivia but their research has not been translated to English or widely reported in the US media. Here are some highlights.

graph of new Bolivian accounts created October 18 to November 20. 2019

On December 10, the CIDH (Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos — Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) published preliminary findings after a visit to Bolivia between November 22 and 25, 2019. …


Fake accounts bombarded top trending hashtags in Egyptian Twitter with obvious, automated spam while protests were breaking out on the ground.

User-to-hashtag network for 10,732 tweets containing hashtag ميدان_التحرير_الان from 21 September to 22 September

Around 5pm EST on September 21, I noticed some suspicious accounts that were spamming hashtags trending in Egypt using IFTTT (“If This Then That”), a web service that automates social media posting.

If This Then That, also known as IFTTT, is a free web-based service to create chains of simple conditional statements, called applets. An applet is triggered by changes that occur within other web services such as Gmail, Facebook, Telegram, Instagram, or Pinterest.”


A look at the follow-for-follow networks that are a staple in pro-Trump Twitter.

User-to-user graph of #BobsPatriotExpress, #GinaXpress and #SistersByTrump

If you are somehow unfamiliar with Trump Trains on Twitter, they are tweets that contain nothing but a list of user names, some emojis and usually a meme or a gif. It’s a social media growth hack that’s been around for awhile (think #FF Follow Fridays) but has been enthusiastically adopted by pro-Trump Twitter users since the 2016 elections. They typically look something like this:


Filed to: corrections needed

I recently found some of my research cited incorrectly in two different articles. Neither outlet contacted me at the time to verify if what they were publishing was accurate and both misinterpreted my analysis. One article has been changed (the reference to my research was deleted but no correction was made) and the second article has not been updated at all, despite assurance from an editor that it was corrected.

Background

In October 2017, I worked with Charlie Warzel from BuzzFeed to publish several of my graphs that included the notorious Russian Twitter troll, Ten_GOP.

I had…


Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador acknowledged the presence of bots on social media today in a press conference at the Palacio Nacional, an important step forward to addressing the problem.

Screenshot via verified YouTube of Andrés Manuel López Obrador

In a press conference this morning in the Palacio Nacional, the Mexican President addressed a long-standing issue in Mexican social media: bots.

He called for companies to stop the commercialization of bots as a matter of ethics but also clarified that it should not be about censorship and that freedom of expression should not be impeded.

“We are not going to censor social media networks, absolutely not, but we…

Erin Gallagher

Social media researcher, multimedia artist

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