Talking to Trolls—How Users Respond to a Coordinated Information Operation and Why They’re So Supportive

This research explored how users interacted with inauthentic social media accounts with the goal of gaining insight into tactics employed by state-backed disinformation efforts. We combine hand coding with natural-language processing to measure the ways in which users talked with and about the accounts employed by the Russian-affiliated Internet Research Agency in the month before the 2016 U.S. Election. We find that user mentions were overwhelming supportive of the IRA accounts, belying the standard characterization of these personas as “trolls.” This pattern is particularly strong for the more ideological troll types, suggesting that a strategy of building homophilic connections with like-minded people was central to the IRA campaign. This strategy seems to work—on days that the personas’ mentions were more supportive, they received more engagement.

Linvill, D., Warren, P. y Moore, A. (2022). Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. PDF descargable aquí.