Ed Note – A summary below of peer reviewed research of interest.
Cross-platform disinformation campaigns: lessons learned and next steps
We conducted a mixed-method, interpretative analysis of an online, cross-platform disinformation campaign targeting the White Helmets, a rescue group operating in rebel-held areas of Syria that have become the subject of a persistent effort of delegitimization. This research helps to conceptualize what a disinformation campaign is and how it works. Based on what we learned from this case study, we conclude that a comprehensive understanding of disinformation requires accounting for the spread of content across platforms and that social media platforms should increase collaboration to detect and characterize disinformation campaigns.
- How do disinformation campaigns work across online platforms to achieve their strategic goals?
- How do governments and other political entities support disinformation campaigns?
- We adopted a mixed-method approach to examine digital trace data from Twitter and YouTube;
- We first mapped the structure of the Twitter conversation around White Helmets, identifying a pro-White Helmets cluster (a subnetwork of accounts that retweet each other) and an anti-White Helmets cluster;
- Then, we compared activities of the two separate clusters, especially how they leverage YouTube videos (through embedded links) in their efforts;
- We found that, on Twitter, content challenging the White Helmets is much more prevalent than content supporting them;
- While the White Helmets receive episodic coverage from “mainstream” media, the campaign against them sustains itself through consistent and complementary use of social media platforms and “alternative” news websites;
- Influential users on both sides of the White Helmets Twitter conversation post links to videos, but the anti-White Helmets network is more effective in leveraging YouTube as a resource for their Twitter campaign;
- State-sponsored media such as Russia Today (RT) support the anti-White Helmets Twitter campaign in multiple ways, e.g., by providing sourced content for articles and videos and amplifying the voices of social media influencers.