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This Account Doesn’t Exist: Tweet Decay and the Politics of Deletion in the Brexit Debate

Bastos, M. T. ORCID: 0000-0003-0480-1078 (2020). This Account Doesn’t Exist: Tweet Decay and the Politics of Deletion in the Brexit Debate. American Behavioral Scientist,

Abstract

Literature on influence operations has identified metrics that are indicative of social media manipulation, but few studies have explored the lifecycle of low-quality information. We contribute to this literature by reconstructing nearly 3M messages posted by 1M users in the last days of the Brexit referendum campaign. While previous studies have found that on average only 4% of tweets disappear, we found that 33% of the tweets leading up to the referendum vote are no longer available. Only about half of the most active accounts that tweeted the referendum continue to operate publicly and 20% of all accounts are no longer active. We tested whether partisan content was more likely to disappear and found more messages from the Leave campaign that disappeared than the entire universe of tweets affiliated with the Remain campaign. We compare these results with a set of 45 hashtags posted in the same period and find that political campaigns present much higher ratios of user and tweet decay. These results are validated by inspecting 2M Brexit-related tweets posted over a period of nearly 4 years. The article concludes with an overview of these findings and recommendations for future research.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: The final and definitive version of this manuscript has been accepted for publication in: American Behavioral Scientist © 2020; all rights reserved, Sage.
Publisher Keywords: Manipulation; Disinformation; Misinformation; Twitter; Web archive; Brexit
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
J Political Science > JZ International relations
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2020 12:50
URI: https://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/24834
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