Politics & Government

Want to read Clemson’s stash of Russian troll tweets? Now they’re online

How Russian Bots and Trolls Invade Our Lives - and Elections

How do bots and trolls work to infiltrate social media platforms and influence U.S. elections? We take a closer look at these insidious online pests to explain how they work.
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How do bots and trolls work to infiltrate social media platforms and influence U.S. elections? We take a closer look at these insidious online pests to explain how they work.

Millions of tweets sent from accounts now believed to be Russian-backed trolls are now available to read online.

Clemson University researchers Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren pulled together almost 3 million tweets sent from the now-suspended accounts during and after the 2016 presidential election. Their goal was to study how the Russian government waged a social media campaign to influence Americans’ votes.

This week, FiveThirtyEight uploaded the entire database of troll tweets to the website GitHub so the public can search all of them for the first time.

“The professors shared their data with FiveThirtyEight in the hope that other researchers, and the broader public, will explore it and share what they find,” FiveThirtyEight’s Oliver Roeder wrote.

“So far it’s only had two brains looking at it,” Linvill told the data-crunching website about their vast trove of troll tweets. “More brains might find God-knows-what.”

Linvill and Warren used software from Clemson’s advanced Social Media Listening Center to pull tweets from some 3,000 accounts between 2014 and 2018.

The two went by a list of since-deleted accounts identified by the U.S. House intelligence committee as originating from Russia’s Internet Research Agency, which has been dubbed the “troll factory” for its divisive, government-backed social media activity.

The researchers stressed in an interview with The State newspaper that Russian efforts to disrupt America’s elections are continuing in the runup to November’s midterms.

“I want to shout this from the rooftops,” Warren told FiveThirtyEight. “This is not just an election thing. It’s a continuing intervention in the political conversation in America.”

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