On 5 December 2019, the Australian Senate resolved to establish a Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media to inquire into and report on the risk posed to Australia’s democracy by foreign interference through social media.

A team of researchers from the VOSON Lab (School of Sociology, Australian National University) and the News and Media Research Centre (University of Canberra), including Robert Ackland and Mathieu O’Neil, submitted an approach to study interference through social media, which involves the use of computational methods (network and text analysis) and data visualisation techniques. The study aimed at identifying styles of IRA troll account activity in the Australian political Twittersphere, utilising a large-scale Twitter dataset collected over a year (September 2015 to October 2016).

The results of these analyses demonstrate that IRA trolling operation did not focus on persuasion and efforts to directly shift political views, nor did they generally seek to change the shape of online discussion. Rather, they tended to focus on a strategy of ‘resonance’ where they seek to embed themselves in a community and from there can work to activate at least certain sections of it for strategic aims.

The submission is available HERE

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