To control information spreading of A4 movement in China, there are hundreds of suspicious accounts tweet spam tweets on Twitter.

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Taiwan

Publishing organisation: READr

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 2022-12-16

Language: Chinese

Authors: Liu Yi-Xin, Syu Siang-Yun, Lee Yu-Ju, Wu Man-Ru


READr is not just a data newsroom, it is also a digital innovation team. The development of information news in Taiwan media is still not perfect at present. Although the READr is only a small information newsroom, we still try hard to have an indicative impact on the development of data journalism in Taiwan.

We always hope to make breakthroughs in every topic.Without the framework of traditional thinking, the team can make the report more creative and also keep the news professional by presenting stories in a true and complete way

Project description:

China’s long-term unreasonable control policies have led to dissatisfaction among the people and “A4 revolutions” in various places, expressing protests to the Chinese government.Twitter has become one of the main channels for transmitting information. However, we found that during the white paper revolution, Twitter appeared a large number of pornographic posts with hashtags of Beijing and Shanghai, trying to weaken the voices of protest.
READr collected tweets about Beijing and Shanghai and found that these accounts operated at specific times, posted in relay, and even the same content, which is highly likely to be suspicious accounts interfering with information.

Impact reached:

Suspicious accounts on Twitter are posting a large number of pornographic posts, trying to weaken the voices of protesters. To resist this evil force, we must make the real voices louder. We expose these suspicious accounts’ posting patterns, content, and even have a history of posting during sensitive times such as the Foxconn incident and Guangzhou protest.
We try to raise a warning that this is not a single event, these suspicious accounts are intentionally interfering with information. As information receivers, we must be more vigilant and try to ensure that the real voices are conveyed.

Techniques/technologies used:

We used the Twitter Search API to retrieve 550,000 posts that mention “Shanghai” and “Beijing” and compared which accounts have been officially suspended or restricted. We then used R language to further analyze the data, aided by manual analysis of keywords, to filter out suspicious accounts and observe their posting patterns.

Context about the project:

When we analyze the group operations of suspicious accounts, it need to be careful abount we have enough evidence needs to be presented to prove it only then we could make accusations at that time. In the past, Our team has a lot of experience analyzing Twitter data. Similar to how we have previously studied the ways in which Russian disinformation spreads on Twitter, when we deal with discussions about the white paper movement, we analyze 55,000 posts containing “Shanghai” and “Beijing”, and then compare which accounts have been officially suspended or restricted, we will list these accounts first.
Secondly ,we compare their account composition, account creation time, posting time, and the trend of relay posting every period of time. At the same time, we also trace back the past posts of these accounts, many of which were created at the same time as significant events in China’s past, such as the SiTong bridge Bridges protest and the FOXCONN workers flee

What can other journalists learn from this project?

Unlike the spread of Russian-Ukraine War disinformation, we observed that the tweets in this case were operated through accounts relay.
This in some ways reminded us that there are many different forms and evolutions of information warfare on the internet, and we must repeatedly observe in different ways, quickly and accurately obtain the materials we need (otherwise they may be deleted or restricted the next second), and make good use of the data at hand for multiple analyses. This is also part of our team’s ongoing improvement.

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