Russian Troll Hunting in a Brexit Twitter Archive

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract / Description of output

Twitter has identified 2,752 accounts that it believes are linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian company that creates online propaganda. These accounts are known to have tweeted about the US 2016 Elections and the list was submitted as evidence by Twitter to the United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism. There is no equivalent officially published list of accounts from the IRA known to be active in the UK-EU Referendum debate (Brexit), but we found that the troll accounts active on the 2016 US Election also produced content related to Brexit. We found 3,485 tweets from 419 of the accounts listed as IRA accounts which specifically discussed Brexit and related topics such as the EU and migration. We have been collating an archive of tweets related to Brexit since August 2015 and currently have over 70 million tweets. The Brexit referendum took place on the 23rd June 2016 and the UK voted to leave the European Union. We gathered the data using the Twitter API and a selection of hashtags chosen by a panel of academic experts. Currently we have in excess of fifty different hashtags and we add to the set periodically to accurately represent the evolving conversation. Twitter has closed the accounts that were documented in the Senate list meaning that these tweets are no longer available through the webpage or API. Due to Twitter's terms of service we are unable to share specific tweet text or user profile information but our findings, utilising text and metadata from derived and aggregated data, allows us to provide important insights into the behaviour of these trolls.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJCDL 2018 - Proceedings of the 18th ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Number of pages2
ISBN (Electronic)9781450351782
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2018
Event18th ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries, JCDL 2018 - Fort Worth, United States
Duration: 3 Jun 20187 Jun 2018


Conference18th ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries, JCDL 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityFort Worth

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • bots and trolls
  • propaganda
  • social networks
  • twitter


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