Conspirador Norteño Profile picture
May 5, 2018 15 tweets 9 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Disinformation War Games
There's been a recent surge in discussion of conspiracy theories related to 2015's Jade Helm military exercise, following an interview where former CIA/NSA director Michael Hayden asserted that Kremlin social media propaganda encouraged hysteria over the topic on the right.
This chart shows the time of the first tweet mentioning the recent #JadeHelm story from the prominent accounts that discussed it. The majority are news organizations and left-wing users. Let's go back to 2015 and see what Twitter activity around Jade Helm looked like then. . .
We gathered tweets containing "Jade Helm" and/or #JadeHelm from 3/13/2015-12/31/2015. We ended up with 163621 tweets (231821 including retweets) from 40551 accounts. Where did the discussion start, and what do the tweets contain?
The earliest accounts to start tweeting about Jade Helm didn't get much attention - none of the tweets posted on the first day received retweets. The conspiracy content is visible from the beginning, however.
Over the remainder of March, some better known accounts discovered and started promoting #JadeHelm conspiracy theories. The cast of characters includes fake news site @beforeitsnews, as well as @RealAlexJones and @PrisonPlanet of InfoWars.
Several different conspiracy theories formed over the #JadeHelm exercise. The most popular was the notion that it was a precursor to martial law in the US, but possibilities such as practice for an invasion of Iran were also floated (among others).
Are there bots present among the #JadeHelm Twitter traffic? We tested a random sample of 1555 of the accounts and found 45 (2.9%) tweet 24/7, and 95 (6.1%) are automated via apps/services. Overall, 128 (8.2%) fall into one or both categories and are likely automated.
The news sources most commonly linked from tweets about #JadeHelm conspiracy are revealing. The majority are conspiracy/fringe sites (orange), with beforeitsnews being the most popular. RT/Russia Today also puts in an appearance. Let's check out some of the news stories.
Beforeitsnews seems to have deleted some of its #JadeHelm content, but some of it is still online. Here we find World War 3, false flag attacks, and a dubious report from a "Texas Ranger" that Jade Helm involves "trains with shackles on them."
Here's Russia Today's earliest article on #JadeHelm. The headline and lede suggest that Jade Helm is a "march to martial law", although the article text eventually gets around to expressing skepticism of the notion.
On 7/10/2015, Russia Today published a guest op-ed with the title "Jade Helm 15: One nation under siege?", followed by a neutral article describing the exercise on 7/14. Note the sequence: the inflammatory op-ed appears first, with the facts not presented until a few days later.
Did the accounts who tweeted #JadeHelm conspiracy theories have any contact with trolls from the Internet Research Agency? Survey says yes, based on residual replies to ten of these accounts that Twitter has identified and banned (TEN_GOP etc).
Adding in a few other accounts that push Kremlin propaganda to the set makes things more interesting: interactions between these accounts and the #JadeHelm users goes back to early 2012.
Many thanks to @ZellaQuixote for multifarious assistance with research and concepts for this thread.

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Oct 9, 2018
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On October 2nd, the news came out that envelopes containing suspected ricin had been mailed to the Pentagon and the White House. We downloaded tweets containing the word "ricin" a few hours after the news broke, resulting in 45007 tweets from 29308 accounts.
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Sep 30, 2018
How does one go about detecting Twitter bots (automated accounts)? Let's take a look at three different tests for detecting signs of automation, and try them on three different sample sets of accounts.
The first two tests may be familiar from previous threads:

1. 24/7 tweet activity - this could point to multiple human operators, but is usually the result of automation/tweet scheduling.
2. Use of automation services such as IFTTT or custom apps built with the Twitter API.
The tweet schedule plots shown in the previous tweet can be used to visually perform both these tests. You can generate them yourself for accounts of interest here:
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