November 13, 2017
By Joseph Florez
A study, initiated by the NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence (StratCom), claims to have found evidence of Russian meddling in NATO conversations on Twitter.
According to The Baltic Times, a Latvia-based newspaper, a significant amount of tweets in Russian surrounding NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe were the fancy work of bots. Social media bots are built for many purposes, including spam and psychological warfare.
“Together, these accounts created 84 percent on tweets in Russian,” TBT reported.
But it doesn’t end there. 1 in 4 active accounts in English was suspected of being automated, controlling up to 46 percent of the entire conversation on Twitter.
The study began unmasking Russian-linked interference after analyzing tweets in the following countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland; Estonia saw the most activity from botted accounts, researchers revealed.
The data collection of Twitter-mentions about NATO’s presence in Europe took place between March 1st to August 30, 2017. The peak activity occurred in May and June, during strategic NATO exercises in the regions.
StratCom measured a total of 11,600 active users. Russian accounts were considered to be two times more active than English-speaking equivalents, the study found.
The Russian version of Twitter does not hold strict policies as the English one, thus resulting in more abusive practices on their platform, researchers explained.
“The Russian-language bots created roughly 84 percent of all Russian messages about NATO in the Baltic States and Poland. For English-language bots, the figure is 46 percent,” it was concluded.
Although the study uncovered an unusual amount of suspicious activity, there was no reason to believe the events transpired were part of a coordinated campaign.
StratCom plans on releasing more reports about bots on social media quarterly.