First Monday

First Monday is one of the first openly accessible, peer–reviewed journals solely devoted to resarch about the Internet. First Monday has published 1,880 papers in 280 issues, written by 2,632 different authors, over the past 23 years. No subscription fees, no submission fees, no advertisements, no fundraisers, no walls.

This month: September 2019
Evolution of bot and human behavior during elections
Online social media have become one of the main communication platforms for political discussion. The online ecosystem, however, does not only include human users but has given a space to an increasing number of automated accounts, referred to as bots, extensively used to spread messages and manipulate the narratives others are exposed to. Although social media service providers put increasing efforts to protect their platforms, malicious bot accounts continuously evolve to escape detection. In this work, the activity of almost 245K accounts, engaged in Twitter political discussions, was monitored during the last two U.S. voting events. Approximately 31K bots were identified and their activity was characterized in contrast with humans. In the 2018 midterms, bots changed the volume and the temporal dynamics of their online activity to better mimic humans and avoid detection. These findings highlight the mutable nature of bots and illustrate the challenges to forecast their evolution.
Also this month
Elites and foreign actors among the alt-right: The Gab social media platform
Content regulation and censorship of social media platforms is increasingly discussed by governments and the platforms themselves. To date, there has been little data-driven analysis of the effects of regulated content deemed inappropriate on online user behavior. This paper compares Twitter — a popular social media platform that occasionally removes content in violation of its Terms of Service — to Gab — a platform that markets itself as completely unregulated. Launched in mid-2016, Gab is, in practice, dominated by individuals who associate with the “alt-right” political movement in the United States. Despite its billing as “The Free Speech Social Network,” Gab users display more extreme social hierarchy and elitism when compared to Twitter. Although the framing of the site welcomes all, Gab users’ content is more homogeneous, preferentially sharing material from sites traditionally associated with the extremes of American political discourse, especially the far right. Furthermore, many of these sites are associated with state-sponsored propaganda from foreign governments. Finally, there is a significant presence of German language posts on Gab, with several topics focusing on German domestic politics, yet sharing significant amounts of content from U.S. and Russian sources. These results indicate possible emergent linkages between domestic politics in European and American far right political movements.



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