CSH Talk by Hossein Kermani: Bots vs. humans: discursive activism during the pandemic in the Iranian Twittersphere

Feb 23, 2023 | 11:0012:00

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This paper investigates how automated accounts and human users framed the pandemic in Iran. While there is a growing body of literature on bot activism, our knowledge of how bots intervene in humans’ organic discursive practices in authoritarian regimes, particularly during the pandemic, is niche. We based this study on networked framing theory and used computational and qualitative methods to address these gaps. Our empirical analysis focuses on a dataset of 4,165,177 tweets which was collected from January 27, 2020, to April 18, 2020. Findings show while anti-regime human users criticized Iran’s regime severely, pro-regime bots counter them by emphasizing medical staff sacrifices, the power of Iran, and the weakness of Western governments in managing the crisis.

Results indicate human users on Persian Twitter were mainly against the regime. On the other hand, the regime employed bots on a large scale to make a balance. Human users also shared sarcastic messages, and pro-regime bots used metaphorical language to invoke Iranians’ religious and revolutionary sentiments to defend the regime. This paper contributes to the growing body of literature on bot activism by focusing on an understudied context: Iran.


In this talk, Hossein Kermani, MSCA postdoctoral researcher at the University of Vienna, will give us insight into the Iranian Twittersphere during COVID-19 and explore the interplay between anti-regime human users and pro-regime bots.


The talk is hosted by CSH Network Inequality Group, on Thursday, February 23rd, at 11 am in Seminar Room 201.





Feb 23, 2023


Complexity Science Hub Vienna
Josefstaedter Straße 39
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