DemLabs blog

Keep an eye on trolls activity and report harassment to Twitter.

New apps make it easier and more affordable to monitor trolls. Who is behind the Twitter bots attacking you? What messages are they are pushing? How should you respond? How can you separate tweets from trolls and real people?

DemLabs tested a new app by analyzing the Twitter attacks on Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib.

"The social media manufactured outrage during the 2018 midterms was disproportionately Islamophobic, xenophobic, racist, and misogynistic. It was heavily influenced by a small number of agents provocateurs, whose hate-filled messages and disinformation were amplified by networks of accounts operating on a scale that signals the involvement of organized networks. They spread hate speech through human interactions, bots, and automated “cyborg” accounts, poisoning the political narrative." - SSRC

How the app works
- We first specified the hashtags (#RashidaTlaib) to monitor.
- The app collects relevant tweets through the Twitter API.
- Tweets are analyzed to find the author, the messages being pushed and sentiment created.
- The app shows how trolls are inter-connected and how often a troll tweets.

The app has positive applicaitons to identify influencers you should contact and test different messages to see which performs the best.

What are the current topics being discussed?

Who's tweeting the most? Hashtags used?

The collected tweets are analyzed for sentiment based on the words they include.

Likely bots area clustered at the top and are equally sized indicating a similar volume of tweets. Real tweets at the bottom vary in size as everyone tweets differently. Bots are tightly connected to other bots while real people's connections are less organized.

Information weaponized with bots
"Traditional journalism is based on truth telling where journalists suffer for mistakes. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are driven by web traffic and advertising. Mark Zuckergberg even tries to justify why Facebook publish lies.

People struggle to get the facts when truth and lies are mixed, especially if distortions of the truth are designed to validate their own biases. Bots manipulate people through social media with dismiss, distort, dismay, and distract techniques." Ben Nimmo explains these BEND tactics in Military Journal

Spotting trolls"Trolls deliberately provoke others by saying offensive things. Trolls aren’t looking for resolution. They want to engage in battle, one that nobody can win." How do you spot a troll? Here are some expert tips from Todd Clarke.

They act entitled: Many trolls have an inflated sense of worth as if the world revolves around them.
They exaggerate: They use strong words like “never” and “every.” Extremes and superlatives are ways to inflame people.
They make it personal: Trolls attack an opponent’s character rather than discuss reasonably. They’ll call people names and appeal to feelings and prejudices, rather than intellect.Trolls are often bad at spelling and grammar: They will spell words wrong, avoid punctuation and not capitalize the first words of sentences. They'll type in all CAPS with a lot of 'I', '!" and profanity."
Trolls often use a stock photo: Check their images with a reverse image search

Tips from Julia McCoy on how to deal to trolls.
Twitter provides this link to report abusive or harassing behavior.

Take awayMonitor trolls and follow expert advice on how to respond to attacks. Report harassment to Twitter.

Test different tweets to see which one works the best.  Identify the 'influencers' on a topic who can amplify your message. (More on these applications in a future DemLabs bulletin).

Co-Founder, DemLabs

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DemLabs applies innovative technology and storytelling tools in service of democratic values. It lowers the barrier of funding for worthy candidates and non-profits by applying existing free/affordable solutions.