Hacktivism and distributed hashtag spoiling on Twitter: Tales of the #IranTalks

Mahdi M. Najafabadi, Robert J. Domanski


The landmark Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was the final agreement of a series of tense nuclear negotiations between Iran and EU3+3 countries that started from September 2013, after which the Iranian people had elected a new president, and finalized in 2015. During several rounds of these negotiations, we noticed that some Twitter users were seemingly trying to distract people from the flow of latest news about the most trending negotiation’s hashtag, “#IranTalks”, by posting irrelevant tweets at a high frequency, that could be categorized as ‘spam’. We collected a sampling of all the tweets that contained the #IranTalks hashtag, and marked the distracting tweets based on some criteria. We populated a list of the spammers’ accounts and extracted their one-on-one friendship relationship (following/followed by). We applied social and organizational network analysis techniques and found strong evidence for the existence of an organization through which the accounts responsible for such tweeting behavior are connected. We believe the results of this study can stimulate more research about this social and organizational phenomenon and its possible impacts, and can help in better understanding and more accurate analysis of social trends on social media platforms.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v23i4.8378

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