I thought it would be interesting to do a visual representation of Bahrain’s sectarian bots. For those of you who have been following recent blogs, we have been establishing that the #Bahrain hashtag is compromised by a sectarian bot network that could amount to hundreds of thousands of accounts.
In this network visualisation of the #Bahrain hashtag from the past few hours, you will see a colourful, connected core of dots (nodes), surrounded by hundreds of grey nodes. Each node represents a twitter account. The colourful centre of the image represents legitimate Twitter accounts Tweeting on the Bahrain hashtag. The lines between them, and their proximity, represents that they are interacting with one another. The larger nodes represent those accounts with more ‘influence’, that is to say, accounts connected to other highly connected accounts. Nodes of the same colour represent communities of tweeters, who have interacted regularly recently (in the sample of Tweets)
All the grey nodes are small, and disparate from the network, not connected to each other or anyone else. This means that they tweet, but do not interact with anyone. Essentially it would suggest they are individuals tweeting but not interacting (a bot). The fact that the visualisation shows them on the periphery of the community is deliberate, as it highlights how they are not actually engaged with the community. A small number of these grey dots are legitimate people who just tweeted on the Bahrain hashtag, but the majority are bots.
What I like about this image though is that while the grey, mostly bot accounts are not engaged, the fact they surround the core community is a good metaphor for how they pollute, or drown out the genuine interactions. The visual strongly shows a grey shield around a core, attempting to make real debate impenetrable. It blocks out prying eyes! It also gives you a sense of how many bots there actually are.