Twitter Analysis: Identifying A Pro-Indonesian Propaganda Bot Network 

By Benjamin Strick

The ongoing conflict in West Papua has surged recently as the West Papuan freedom movement seeks independence from Indonesia.

While aggression has been documented on both sides, there are grave concerns that Indonesian security forces have been responsible for human rights abuses through the violent suppression of West Papuans in their pursuit of independence.

Hostilities have recently erupted in both Indonesia and West Papua. In August, protests were quashed by security forces with events seeing Papuan students tear gassed in their dormitories in East Java and security forces assisting violent mobs in an attack on Papuan protestors in Fakfak.

Much of the conflict has been waged on the streets, but the fight has also spilled over into the digital world — as censorship and disinformation. While there has been targeted internet disruption in Papua and Indonesia, and the banning of counter narrative YouTube content, something that has not been exposed, until now, is an active bot network disseminating pro-government content through major social media platforms.

The campaign, fuelled by a network of bot accounts on Twitter, expands to Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. The content is spread in Tweets using specific hashtags such as #FreeWestPapua, #WestPapuaGenocide, #WestPapua and #fwpc.

Conducting The Network Analysis

These findings came after capturing activity from Twitter using the #WestPapua and #FreeWestPapua tags from August 29 — September 2, 2019. The captured data was used to perform the network analysis.

Using this data, I built an itemised dataset of:

  • Usernames that tweeted the above tags
  • Usernames that retweeted and liked the posts
  • Timestamps
  • URL
  • The type of activity (tweet, retweet, quote, mention).

With this working dataset, I was able to visualise the respective networks via the open source visualisation platform Gephi. Below is a visualisation of the entire capture.

Opening the graph for analysis, labels and clusters are illustrated below:

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From:: Bellingcat

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