What is it about?

This work aims to establish whether astroturfing was used during the Covid-19 pandemic to manipulate Spanish public opinion through Twitter. This study analyzes tweets published in Spanish and geolocated in the Philippines. Its first objective is to determine the existence of an organized network that directs its messages mainly towards Spain. A preliminary collection of 1,496,596 tweets was carried out to determine the non-existence of a random network. After determining its 14 main clusters, 280 users with medium-low profiles of participation and micro- and nano-influencer traits were randomly selected and followed for 103 days for a total of 309,947 tweets. Network science, text mining, sentiment and emotion, and bot probability analyses were performed using Gephi and R.

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Why is it important?

Findings suggest an ultra-small-world phenomenon, which would determine the existence of a possible organized network that tries not to be easily identifiable. The data analyzed confirms a digital communication scenario in which astroturfing is used to manipulate public opinion through non-influencers (cybertroops). These users create and disseminate content with proximity and closeness to different groups of public opinion, mixing topics of general interest with disinformation or polarized content.


Findings could demonstrate the presence of an organised industry with the capacity to mobilize non-influencer users (cyber-troops), in the terms described by Brad-shaw, Bailey and Howard (2021), for the creation and dissemination of a large amount of disinformative and polarised content. Tweets and users in apparent direct opposition create conflict aimed at attracting other users, which end up being used to encourage or discourage specific ideas or actions in Spanish society.

Prof. Elias Said-Hung
Universidad Internacional de La Rioja

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Astroturfing as a strategy for manipulating public opinion on Twitter during the pandemic in Spain, Profesional de la información, June 2022, EPI SCP (El Profesional de la Informacion),
DOI: 10.3145/epi.2022.may.10.
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