Twitter and Campaigning

Good piece (tipped by Ed Kilgore) on the history of Twitter as a vector of political mis-information. Scientists have been studying its influence in the Coakley Brown election.

As pundits, journalists and citizens traverse the still-evolving social media landscape, scientists are doing the same. Using tools from linguistics, computer science and network science, these researchers are uncovering the digital calling cards of spin. Amid all the genuine discourse, teams are turning up speech dressed in truthful clothing squawked by impersonators, whether a single citizen with an agenda or a well-oiled political machine.

Later in the piece:

The Coakley Twitter bomb was an early case of what Filippo Menczer, a specialist in complex networks and Web data mining, calls “astroturfing.” To the untrained eye, a surge in vitriol against a candidate can appear to be a grassroots outcry, growing naturally from constituent concern or discontent. But in actuality, it’s machine-made artificial grass, or AstroTurf. Astroturfing campaigns (which are prohibited by Twitter policies) can give the impression that a discussion is truly representative of what a lot of people are thinking, Menczer says. This could prompt people to change their minds at the polls, he says, or to not vote.

Apparently Google Bombing is passé. (Although now the first result for Santorum is still not his site, it’s the Wikipedia article about the google bombing.).

Interesting points later on about the Turing test and bots and the suggestion that soon, already?, 10% of our social networks will be bots we think are humans. (Apparently bots get sleep/wake patterns programmed in so people think they are real.) If these bots hook up with the ones that like looking at cat videos, goodbye bandwidth!


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