In mid-October of 2018, Twitter released a dataset containing both the contents and information for accounts on their platform related to the Internet Research Agency. These accounts were used to influence the 2016 US Presidential election, as well as elections and referenda in several other countries, including the UK and Venezuela. This article documents a data analysis of these tweets, and through data visualisation demonstrates a rigorous methodology of practice at work in Russia’s online interference in foreign democracies, particularly through St. Petersburg’s Internet Research Agency (IRA). This research will also show that many previous visualisations of this data have failed to factor for time, and therefore overemphasise certain trends. Finally, we question whether Twitter released the entire Internet Research Agency dataset, as claimed.
Keywords—strategic communications, social media, Russian interference, data visualisation, network analysis, Internet Research Agency
About the Authors
Dr Charles Kriel is the Founder of Kriel.Agency, a strategic communications, research and policy agency with a portfolio including the Persian Gulf, Northern Asia, the Baltics, Balkans, Caucasus and Caribbean.
He is Special Advisor to the UK House of Commons Select Committees on disinformation, and addictive technologies, and to the Trinidad and Tobago Joint National Security Committee.
Alexa Pavliuc is an MSc student in Data Science at City, University of London, following her studies in Professional Communication at Ryerson University, Canada. She has conducted research in human-robot-interaction, and on mal-information in provincial elections on YouTube through the employment of network visualisations at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
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