Cross-Platform State Propaganda: Russian Trolls on Twitter and YouTube During the 2016 US Presidential Election

The International Journal of Press/Politics, 2020

52 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2020

See all articles by Yevgeniy Golovchenko

Yevgeniy Golovchenko

University of Copenhagen

Cody Buntain

NJIT; CSMaP

Gregory Eady

University of Copenhagen

Megan Brown

CSMaP

Joshua A. Tucker

New York University (NYU)

Date Written: March 11, 2020

Abstract

This paper investigates online propaganda strategies of the Internet Research Agency (IRA)—Russian “trolls”—during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. We assess claims that the IRA sought either to (1) support Donald Trump or (2) sow discord among the U.S. public by analyzing hyperlinks contained in 108,781 IRA tweets. Our results show that although IRA accounts promoted links to both sides of the ideological spectrum, “conservative” trolls were more active than “liberal” ones. The IRA also shared content across social media platforms, particularly YouTube—the second-most linked destination among IRA tweets. Although overall news content shared by trolls leaned moderate to conservative, we find troll accounts on both sides of the ideological spectrum, and these accounts maintain their political alignment. Links to YouTube videos were decidedly conservative, however. While mixed, this evidence is consistent with the IRA’s supporting the Republican campaign, but the IRA’s strategy was multifaceted, with an ideological division of labor among accounts. We contextualize these results as consistent with a pre-propaganda strategy. This work demonstrates the need to view political communication in the context of the broader media ecology, as governments exploit the interconnected information ecosystem to pursue covert propaganda strategies.

Keywords: social media, twitter, youtube, russia, disinformation, propaganda

Suggested Citation

Golovchenko, Yevgeniy and Buntain, Cody and Eady, Gregory and Brown, Megan and Tucker, Joshua Aaron, Cross-Platform State Propaganda: Russian Trolls on Twitter and YouTube During the 2016 US Presidential Election (March 11, 2020). The International Journal of Press/Politics, 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3552886

Yevgeniy Golovchenko

University of Copenhagen ( email )

Nørregade 10
Copenhagen, København DK-1165
Denmark

Cody Buntain (Contact Author)

NJIT ( email )

University Heights
Newark, NJ 07102
United States

HOME PAGE: http://cody.bunta.in

CSMaP ( email )

New York, NY 10003-711
United States

Gregory Eady

University of Copenhagen ( email )

Nørregade 10
Copenhagen, København DK-1165
Denmark

Megan Brown

CSMaP ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
20 Cooper Square 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003-711
United States

Joshua Aaron Tucker

New York University (NYU) ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
20 Cooper Square 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003-711
United States

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