“Regarding Lebanon protests, yesterday I looked at suspected influence campaigns promoting Hassan Nasrallah. A few got in touch suggesting I look at a couple of hashtags criticizing him – namely نصرالله واحد منن and حل عنا انت وسلاحك,” Jones introduced his article.
Jones, clarified that he analyzed around 6,500 tweets from around 4,494 unique accounts, adding that there were a few things I found quite striking.
“Firstly, the spike in accounts created in September 2019, which was obviously before the escalation of protests in Lebanon. Again this might not be unusual for suspicious accounts, which will become active when required and high suspension rates means usually they are ‘newer’. The 180 accounts created in September 2019 compares to around the 31 per month average – a large difference.”
“Although I assume it goes without saying (perhaps I shouldn’t) it is also common for dramatic events to drive people to creating Twitter events. Although I am not sure why September 2019 outstrips October 2019. My sample of pro-Nasrallah accounts actually showed the account creation spiked in October 2019, and during the protests. This spike is before. Many of the new accounts have tell-tale signs of spammy accounts – such as usernames that look like random strings. Much of the content on the hashtags are the type of crude cartoons you’d expect on influence campaigns.”
“A brief locational analysis of the tweets also suggested that most of the accounts are based in Saudi. Now this is user-reported location so must be taken with a grain of salt. Around 35% of the 2,297 accounts with location data were from Saudi. While Saudi has the highest Twitter population in the world, I usually see this kind of turnout on hashtags criticizing Iran, the Houthis, or Hezbollah. Some of the almost brand-new accounts created in Sept/Oct 2019 are very spammy.”
“A couple of them, which RT a lot of Saudi loyalist accounts have as as many as 10,000 + tweets, despite only being a month and a half old. That’s a helluva lot. So I would certainly say there is some sort of Twitter campaign afoot to demonize Nasrallah. This shouldn’t be surprising, as ‘Saudi’ (if it indeed it is Saudi – although it probably is a Saudi entity), will use any opportunity to criticize someone like Nasrallah.”