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

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Title: This Account Doesn't Exist: Tweet Decay and the Politics of Deletion in the Brexit Debate
Authors: Bastos, Marco
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Date: 1-May-2021
Online since: 2021-10-18T11:18:31Z
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half of the most active accounts that tweeted the referendum continue to operate publicly and 20% of all accounts are no longer active.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 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 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.
Funding Details: Twitter, Inc.
National Science Foundation
Type of material: Journal Article
Publisher: SAGE Publications
Journal: American Behavioral Scientist
Volume: 65
Issue: 5
Start page: 757
End page: 773
Copyright (published version): 2021 Sage
Keywords: ManipulationDisinformationTwitterMisinformationWeb archiveBrexit
DOI: 10.1177/0002764221989772
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
ISSN: 0002-7642
This item is made available under a Creative Commons License:
Appears in Collections:Information and Communication Studies Research Collection

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