This month: March 2021
More than a mob: Parler as preparatory media for the Capitol storming
On 6 January 2021, a violent mob attacked the United States Capitol. Yet while mob suggests a chaotic and fragmented crowd, networked media had already been working to provide it with “just enough” cohesion, transforming it into a more dangerous political body. This paper conceptualizes this preparatory media by examining the “free speech” social media network Parler, drawing on a corpus of ∼350,000 posts from the days leading up to and including the attack. This material empirically demonstrates how media worked to forge connections between disparate camps, to incite participants toward violent activity, and to legitimize this attack as moral or even spiritual. Preparatory media frames events, establishes targets, and sets agendas, providing a degree of order and working against disaggregation online. This temporary stabilization contributes to a more mobilized and organized public body. Rather than prosocial or emancipatory, the Capitol storming demonstrates the far darker potential of this work. Understanding this role of media and intervening within these logics provides one component for preventing future attacks.
   
Also this month
Down the bot hole: Actionable insights from a one-year analysis of bot activity on Twitter
Social media represent persuasive tools that have been progressively weaponized to affect beliefs, spread manipulative narratives, and sow conflicts along divergent factions. Software-controlled accounts (i.e., bots) are one of the main actors associated with manipulation campaigns, especially in a political context. Uncovering the strategies behind bots’ activities is of paramount importance to detect and curb such campaigns. This paper presents a long term (one-year) analysis of bots activity on Twitter in the run-up to the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. Hyperactive bots played a pivotal role in the dissemination of conspiratorial narratives, while dominating the political debate in the year before the election.