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





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.

Author Biographies

Mahdi M. Najafabadi, University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY)

Mahdi is currently pursuing his Ph.D. studies by focusing on open data ecosystems. He is interested in applying system thinking to address complex sociotechnical problems in public and private sectors. Mahdi is also interested in studying how information technologies and social media is exploited by people, organizations, and governments for a better outcome, and the implications of this attitude towards information technology.

Robert J. Domanski

Instructor of both political science and computer science at the City University of New York. He is the author of the book, Who governs the Internet? A political architecture, and his ongoing research focuses on the topics of hacktivism and the politics of algorithms.




How to Cite

Najafabadi, M. M., & Domanski, R. J. (2018). Hacktivism and distributed hashtag spoiling on Twitter: Tales of the #IranTalks. First Monday, 23(4). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v23i4.8378