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Malicious and Low Credibility URLs on Twitter During the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Development

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Social, Cultural, and Behavioral Modeling (SBP-BRiMS 2021)


We investigate the link sharing behavior of Twitter users following the temporary halt of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine development in September 2020. During this period, we show the presence of malicious and low credibility information sources shared on Twitter messages in multiple languages. The malicious URLs, often in shortened forms, are increasingly hosted in content delivery networks and shared cloud hosting infrastructures not only to improve reach but also to avoid being detected and blocked. There are potential signs of coordination to promote both malicious and low credibility URLs on Twitter. Our findings suggest the need to develop a system that monitors the low-quality URLs shared in times of crisis.

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This work is partially supported by the DARPA SocialSim Program and the Air Force Research Laboratory under contract FA8650-18-C-7825. The authors would like to thank Grand Challenge, North American Social Network Conference for providing data.

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Correspondence to Sameera Horawalavithana .

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Horawalavithana, S., De Silva, R., Nabeel, M., Elvitigala, C., Wijesekara, P., Iamnitchi, A. (2021). Malicious and Low Credibility URLs on Twitter During the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Development. In: Thomson, R., Hussain, M.N., Dancy, C., Pyke, A. (eds) Social, Cultural, and Behavioral Modeling. SBP-BRiMS 2021. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 12720. Springer, Cham.

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