The Role of Suspended Accounts in Political Discussion on Social Media: Analysis of the 2017 French, UK and German Elections

Paper published in Social Media + Society

In this study, we advance our understanding on which type of election-related content gets suspended by social media platforms. Our analysis suggests that Twitter suspended accounts were overwhelmingly human operated and no more likely than other accounts to share “fake news.”. Their messages significantly focused on amplifying divisive issues like immigration and religion and increasing the visibility of specific political figures (often but not always on the right).

Abstract: Content moderation on social media is at the center of public and academic debate. In this study, we advance our understanding on which type of election-related content gets suspended by social media platforms. For this, we assess the behavior and content shared by suspended accounts during the most important elections in Europe in 2017 (in France, the United Kingdom, and Germany). We identify significant differences when we compare the behavior and content shared by Twitter suspended accounts with all other active accounts, including a focus on amplifying divisive issues like immigration and religion and systematic activities increasing the visibility of specific political figures (often but not always on the right). Our analysis suggests that suspended accounts were overwhelmingly human operated and no more likely than other accounts to share “fake news.” This study sheds light on the moderation policies of social media platforms, which have increasingly raised contentious debates, and equally importantly on the integrity and dynamics of political discussion on social media during major political events.

Full authors: Silvia Majó-Vázquez, Mariluz Congosto, Tom Nicholls, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen