During the last decades, the world’s population has been developing as an information society, which means that information started to play a substantial end-to-end role in all life aspects and processes. In view of the growing demand for a free flow of information, social networks have become a force to be reckoned with. The ways of war-waging have also changed: instead of conventional weapons, governments now use political warfare, including fake news, a type of propaganda aimed at deliberate disinformation or hoaxes. And the lack of content control mechanisms makes it easy to spread any information as long as people believe in it.
Based on this premise, I’ve decided to experiment with different NLP approaches and build a classifier that could be used to detect either bots or fake content generated by trolls on Twitter in order to influence people.
In this first part of the article, I will cover the data collection process, preprocessing, feature extraction, classification itself and the evaluation of the models’ performance. In Part 2, I will dive deeper into the troll problem, conduct exploratory analysis to find patterns in the trolls’ behaviour and define the topics that seemed of great interest to them back in 2016.
Features for analysis
From all possible data to use (like hashtags, account language, tweet text, URLs, external links or references, tweet date and time), I settled upon English tweet text, Russian tweet text and hashtags. Tweet text is the main feature for analysis because it contains almost all essential characteristics that are typical for trolling activities in general, such as abuse, rudeness, external resources references, provocations and bullying. Hashtags were chosen as another source of textual information as they represent the central message of a tweet in one or two words.