Disinformation in Context: AI, Platforms and Policy


This study examines the temporal dynamics of emotional appeals in Russian campaign messages used in the 2016 election. Communications on two giant social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter, are analyzed to assess emotion in message content and targeting that may have contributed to influencing people.  


The “Disinformation in Context” approach defines “good systems” as not only technological but also social, organizational, and political. The notion of the “system” invokes an information environment with many moving parts. Artificial intelligence and machine-driven content creation and circulation are significant components of contemporary disinformation efforts.   

The study conducts both computational and qualitative investigations of the Internet Research Agency’s (IRA) emotion-based strategies across three different dimensions of message propagation: the platforms themselves, partisan identity as targeted by the source, and social identity in politics, using African American identity as a case. The research team examines the emotional flows along the campaign timeline, emotion-based strategies of the Russian trolls that masked left- and right-leaning identities, and emotion in messages projecting to or about African American identity and representation.  


Findings show sentiment strategies that differ between Facebook and Twitter, with strong evidence of negative emotion targeting Black identity. 


Team Members

Natalie Stroud
Communication Studies
Mary Neuburger
Slavic and Eurasian Studies
Kiril Avramov
Slavic and Eurasian Studies
Jason Roberts
Slavic and Eurasian Studies


Select Publications

S. Park, Sharon Strover, J. Choi, and M. Schnell. “Mind Games: A temporal sentiment analysis of the political messages of the IRA on Facebook and Twitter.”  Presented at the International Communication Association, Gold Coast, Australia (virtual). May 2020. 

German Alvarez, S. Graham, Jaewon Choi, and Sharon Strover. “Good news, bad news:  A Sentiment analysis of the 2016 Election Russian Facebook Ads.” Presented at the International Communication Association, Washington, D.C. May 2019. 

Sharon Strover and G. Alvarez.  “Facebook and the Russian IRA Campaign.”  Information Wars:  Social Media and Politics in Russia & Eastern Europe Conference Conference. University of Texas at Austin. April 25, 2019.