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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 (2021). This Account Doesn’t Exist: Tweet Decay and the Politics of Deletion in the Brexit Debate. American Behavioral Scientist, doi: 10.1177/0002764221989772

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 3 million messages posted by 1 million 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half of the most active accounts that tweeted the referendum continue to operate publicly, and 20% of all accounts are no longer active.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 an assorted 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 2 million 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: © 2021 SAGE Publications.
Publisher Keywords: manipulation, disinformation, misinformation, Twitter; web archive, Brexit
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2021 11:25
URI: https://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/25721
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