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#IStandWithPutin Versus #IStandWithUkraine: The Interaction of Bots and Humans in Discussion of the Russia/Ukraine War

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Social Informatics (SocInfo 2022)


The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine emphasises the role social media plays in modern-day warfare, with conflict occurring in both the physical and information environments. There is a large body of work on identifying malicious cyber-activity, but less focusing on the effect this activity has on the overall conversation, especially with regards to the Russia/Ukraine Conflict. Here, we employ a variety of techniques including information theoretic measures, sentiment and linguistic analysis, and time series techniques to understand how bot activity influences wider online discourse. By aggregating account groups we find significant information flows from bot-like accounts to non-bot accounts with behaviour differing between sides. Pro-Russian non-bot accounts are most influential overall, with information flows to a variety of other account groups. No significant outward flows exist from pro-Ukrainian non-bot accounts, with significant flows from pro-Ukrainian bot accounts into pro-Ukrainian non-bot accounts. We find that bot activity drives an increase in conversations surrounding angst (with \(p = 2.450 \times 10^{-4}\) ) as well as those surrounding work/governance (with \(p = 3.803 \times 10^{-18}\) ). Bot activity also shows a significant relationship with non-bot sentiment (with \(p = 3.760 \times 10^{-4}\) ), where we find the relationship holds in both directions. This work extends and combines existing techniques to quantify how bots are influencing people in the online conversation around the Russia/Ukraine invasion. It opens up avenues for researchers to understand quantitatively how these malicious campaigns operate, and what makes them impactful.

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B.S. would like to acknowledge the support of a Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship. L.M. and M.R. are supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects funding scheme (project DP210103700). L.M. also acknowledges support from the Australian Defence Science and Technology Group ORNet scheme.

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Correspondence to Bridget Smart .

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Smart, B., Watt, J., Benedetti, S., Mitchell, L., Roughan, M. (2022). #IStandWithPutin Versus #IStandWithUkraine: The Interaction of Bots and Humans in Discussion of the Russia/Ukraine War. In: Hopfgartner, F., Jaidka, K., Mayr, P., Jose, J., Breitsohl, J. (eds) Social Informatics. SocInfo 2022. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 13618. Springer, Cham.

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