Quantifying the influence of 4chan's alt-right trolls on normies' discourse

In a proceedings paper presented at a Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence social media conference, a team of British, Italian, and Cypriot academics who worked with a Telefonica researcher presented their work analyzing 8,000,000 comments from 4chan's "politically incorrect" (AKA /pol/) boards, a hive of alt-right racism and hate.

The researchers attempted to quantify the effects that /pol/'s "raids" had on the discourse in mainstream political discourse, tracing the flows of news and talking points from /pol/ to and from Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

They found that alt-right raids were remarkably effective at steering the wider discourse, with "12% of the alternative news on worldnews (one of the main news boards on reddit) coming from 4chan. And over 16% of the alternative news on the same board is coming from The_Donald."

Here, we studied whether, once an event happens on one Internet platform (say, a hyperlink to a piece of news), the same event happens on another platform. It will be the exact same news link being posted on /pol/ that then makes its way to Twitter, let’s say. We use a mathematical technique called 'Hawkes-process modelling', in which we can say with reasonable confidence that a particular event actually is related to the previous one that happened.

So we did this study, the first of its kind in tracing links between services. The idea here is that there has been quite some work on studying fake and alternative news. People look at how alternative news spreads on Twitter, for example; how people reshare it. But these services do not live in a vacuum — they’re part of the greater web. These places where alternative news stories are posted and they talk about them and they make up these crazy conspiracies and all of that: we wanted to understand whether this actually has an impact on the wider web.

Kek, Cucks, and God Emperor Trump: A Measurement Study of 4chan’s
Politically Incorrect Forum and Its Effects on the Web
[Gabriel Emile Hine, Jeremiah Onaolapo, Emiliano De Cristofaro, Nicolas Kourtellis, Ilias Leontiadis, Riginos Samaras, Gianluca Stringhini and Jeremy Blackburn/11th Annual International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media]

Shining a light on the dark corners of the web
[Daniel Cressey/Nature]

(via Naked Capitalism)