New VOX-Pol report: The Last Twitter Census

The newest VOX-Pol Publication, The Last Twitter Census by JM Berger, is now available free-to-access on the VOX-Pol Publications page.

This report compares two large random samples of Twitter accounts that tweet in English: one taken just before Elon Musk acquired Twitter in October 2022, and one taken three months later, in January 2023. It also examines several related datasets collected during the period following the acquisition, a period in which, the study found, new accounts were created at a record-breaking pace. Some extremist and conspiracy networks created accounts faster than the baseline rate, probably because changes to Twitter’s trust and safety policies had been announced. In the context of these policy announcements, the study examines some reinstated accounts, with mixed results. Despite the loosening of several content policies, accounts that automated the sending of tweets (‘bots’) saw activity drop sharply during the period of the study, with many bot accounts being suspended or deactivated, while others voluntarily curtailed their activity in light of the API changes announced. Deactivated accounts were dominated by sex-related content and apparent financial spam or scams, often coupled with automated tweeting.

The report’s author, J.M. Berger, is a writer and researcher focused on extremism as a Senior Research Fellow for the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. His research encompasses extremist and terrorist ideologies and propaganda, including social media and semantic analytical techniques. He is the author of four books, including Extremism (2018) and Optimal (2020). Berger is also a research fellow with VOX-Pol and a PhD candidate at Swansea University’s School of Law, where he studies extremist ideologies.

A video of the launch event, which includes a discussion with J.M. Berger, Dr Alastair Reed and Prof Maura Conway, can be watched now on the VOX-Pol YouTube channel.

All VOX-Pol Publications are available free-to-access on the VOX-Pol Publications page. Some are also available in hard copy, and can be requested.