Astroturfing in China: Three Case Studies (Report)

Authored by: Blake Miller and Mary Gallagher

Abstract: We identify government-fabricated social media posts about three interesting cases of public opinion events: the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, the ruling of the International Tribunal on the South China Sea Disputes between China and the Philippines, and the explosions in the Port of Tianjin in the summer of 2015. We do so with astroturfer detection methods outlined in Miller (2015a) (accessible online here) using comment metadata from a large database of nearly 50 million comments made on several Chinese news web- sites. These metadata represent a profile of netizen behavior (social network information, IP address, post volume, etc.). Using this profile we can probabilistically identify comments from users whose metadata profile is consistent with what we know about the behavior of paid government commentators.

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