Culture Workshop: Leslie Jones
Discursive Derailment: A Social Movements Analysis of Twitter Sockpuppets.
Anyone can use surveillance (in essence ethnography) to socially engineer dissent or manipulate the framing of organic dissent within peer networks on Twitter because of a combination of platform technical affordances, ownership decision-making, and news media infrastructure. This has been borne out in the popular news about so-called Russian bots, but there is relatively minimal qualitative work explicating the vulnerabilities that make it possible to exploit the logic of connective action at scale for political propaganda. In particular, bad actors may target any number of political fault lines that fall outside the scope of legacy media coverage, simultaneously saturating digital publics with disinformation before “mainstream media” has even identified these conflicts as news stories. Moreover, political discourse manipulators materially change the nature of the digital publics that they target for information dissemination. Thus, we can think of bots and other types of disinformation accounts as artifacts that reveal the targets and goals of discursive manipulation, even if they do not always readily yield the “real identities” of agents. I argue that in this context, digital ethnography and autoethnography constitute both a countersurveillance strategy for political targets and a methodology for identifying media framing contests with important consequences for contentious politics.