Identifying Twitter users who repost unreliable news sources with linguistic information

Mu, Yida; Aletras, Nikolaos
PeerJ Computer Science

Social media has become a popular source for online news consumption with millions of users worldwide. However, it has become a primary platform for spreading disinformation with severe societal implications. Automatically identifying social media users that are likely to propagate posts from handles of unreliable news sources sometime in the future is of utmost importance for early detection and prevention of disinformation diffusion in a network, and has yet to be explored. To that end, we present a novel task for predicting whether a user will repost content from Twitter handles of unreliable news sources by leveraging linguistic information from the user’s own posts. We develop a new dataset of approximately 6.2K Twitter users mapped into two categories: (1) those that have reposted content from unreliable news sources; and (2) those that repost content only from reliable sources. For our task, we evaluate a battery of supervised machine learning models as well as state-of-the-art neural models, achieving up to 79.7 macro F1. In addition, our linguistic feature analysis uncovers differences in language use and style between the two user categories.