Kate Starbird Profile picture
Associate Professor of Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) at UW. Researcher of crisis informatics and online rumors. Aging athlete. Army brat.
Phillip D. Long Profile picture Neal Rauhauser Profile picture Buck Borasky, Frontier Programmer Profile picture 🟠#ShutdownTMX #StopLine3 🧡🖖🏽💛💚🌱 Profile picture Brian Branagan Profile picture 10 added to My Authors
12 Jul
When I stopped by to see him, my <loved one> explained that he turned down my invitation to visit tonight b/c he needed to watch “the last speech by Trump before he could go to jail”. Later, he expressed confusion when I said there were videos of violence against police on 1-6.
All he does is watch “news” all day. How could he live in such a vastly different reality? I showed him a few videos of January 6 and he was so confused.
My <loved one> asked about my work and I explained how we were helping people see how content reached them, using the Seth Rich conspiracy theory as an example. <Loved one> pivoted the conversation w/ something about “redactions" & how that theory just might be true after all.
Read 6 tweets
20 Jun
For a 10th birthday my <loved one> gave my <loved one> 3 gifts: a small U.S. flag, pocket Constitution, & Ben Carson's biography, Gifted Hands. Any of these would be fine alone. Together, they reveal structural patterns & psychological effects of long-term exposure to propaganda.
On the same day, for an upcoming birthday, same <loved one> also gifted two copies of “Unrestricted Warfare” to two adults with upcoming birthdays. (I already received mine a few weeks ago.)
Current book on their mantle, for those interested in following whatever toxic Amazon/Fox News recommendations are guiding their choices: “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t"
Read 4 tweets
18 Jun
Can’t they come up with anything new? This is almost exactly the same as the conspiracy theories about the Boston Marathon bombings that claimed they were a “false flag” orchestrated by “black ops” elements within the U.S. government. See our 2014 paper: faculty.washington.edu/kstarbi/Starbi…
We wrote two follow up papers that covered that conspiracy theory with more depth and from different angles:

Here’s a tweet, posted less than a day after the Boston Marathon bombings, that contains the same core claim:
Read 4 tweets
21 May
Going into Election2020, researchers w/ the @2020partnership rapidly analyzed social media data to identify false & misleading claims meant to sow distrust in the election — now known collectively as “the Big Lie”. This is the story of one (of hundreds) of those claims. Thread.
@2020Partnership This story is from late Sept, more than a month before the election. At the time, the American public was experiencing what Benkler and colleagues referred to as a “disinformation campaign” — designed to create a false expectation of massive voter fraud. cyber.harvard.edu/publication/20…
@2020Partnership For months, Pres Trump & his supporters had been pushing a range of false, misleading, and exaggerated claims meant to sow distrust in the mail-in voting process specifically and the election results more generally. Here’s a tweet from June:
Read 15 tweets
14 May
Per a researcher request, we’ve assembled a list of the top most-retweeted tweets in the # StopTheSteal conversation between Nov 3, 2020 and Jan 7, 2021. Some highlights below.
Most retweeted StopTheSteal tweet was authored by @realDonaldTrump on January 3. It’s a quote tweet about the January 6 protest, to which he adds: "I will be there. Historic day!” It was retweeted 51,137 times (according to our data).
@realDonaldTrump 2nd on list, ~45,000 RTs, realDonaldTrump (Jan 3): 'Georgia election data, just revealed, shows that over 17,000 votes illegally flipped from Trump to Biden.” @OANN This alone (there are many other irregularities) is enough to easily “swing Georgia to Trump”. #StopTheSteal...'
Read 14 tweets
6 May
Working on some visuals to help explain the dynamics of “participatory disinformation” and how that motivated the January 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol. Image
Let’s start from the beginning. We have “elites”, including elected political leaders, political pundits and partisan media outlets, as well as social media influencers who have used disinformation and other tactics to gain reputation and grow large audiences online. Image
We also have their audiences — the social media users and cable news watchers who tune into — and engage with — their content.
Read 22 tweets
30 Apr
Sharing a draft of a conceptual model I’m working on to explain how online social networks, algorithms, and human action are all mutually shaping. Yes, people choose who to follow and that shapes what they see, but those choices are shaped by the algorithms.
This builds from a “structuration” approach to understanding the mutual shaping of social structures, human action, & technology. I was inspired by @sinanaral’s comments last week at the Social Media summit discussing this relationship b/w structure and agency in online ads.
@sinanaral And it emerges from a conversation w/ @alexstamos about the role of our social networks in shaping what we see (and what we do) online. It’s not networks OR algorithms. It’s BOTH. And they work in interaction with each other, and human behavior.
Read 6 tweets
28 Apr
This domain (SouthFront) shows up a lot when we look at Russia’s activity w/in disinformation campaigns outside the US context — e.g. the campaign targeting the “White Helmets” in Syria. It’s one of an array of small propaganda sites they use to spread strategic narratives.
Southfront shows up as a (low-medium frequency) tweeted domain in Twitter conversations around the downing of MH17, criticism of NATO (~2017), and discourse around Syria (2017-2018). It also appears in early Qanon discourse (as a tweeted domain in tweets w/ #QAnon in them).
There are many similar websites that consistently pump out Russia’s strategic narratives. Here’s an OLD snapshot of domain co-sharing network (domains that were shared by the same user are linked) from MH17. Not all shared disinfo, but many did. Shows some now-familiar patterns:
Read 4 tweets
26 Apr
We (researchers) have been stressing the integration of coordinated & organic activity in the spread of online disinformation for a few years now. Facebook’s internal report (on platform use going into Jan 6) highlights the need for policy to address this: buzzfeednews.com/article/ryanma…
"A policy of coordinated authentic harm needs a broader definition of coordination to handle network or movement level harms and the interplay between organic and inorganic growth.” Coordination can be explicit (you do this, I do that) or implicit (like a flock of birds).
A lot of online organizing involves a small amount of explicit coordination that structures a large amount of implicit coordination. Here’s a 2012 paper, describing how groups of volunteers organize (largely through implicit coordination) during disasters: faculty.washington.edu/kstarbi/CHI201…
Read 4 tweets
9 Apr
Re-posting this for the morning crowd. My former PhD student, Tom Wilson, published his dissertation documenting the online disinformation campaign targeting the White Helmets (a humanitarian response organization) in Syria.
In addition to their rescue/response activities, the White Helmets provided documentation of war crimes (including chemical weapons attacks) by Assad and his Russian allies. The campaign against them sought to confuse Western audiences & delegitimize evidence of war crimes.
Dr Wilson’s work carefully documented several of the online dimensions of that campaign — including the network structure of online influencers and grey propaganda websites that consistently spread anti-White Helmets propaganda.
Read 5 tweets
21 Mar
This article really captures my sentiments (as a former player) about the equity issues with the NCAA women’s bball tourney (compared to the men’s)... it’s just exhausting to still be dealing with these slights, both big and small, after all these years. washingtonpost.com/sports/2021/03…
One story. It’s 1992. I’m on a recruiting trip to a school with competitive academics and an up-and-coming women’s bball program. They also have a top men’s bball program, and the men’s coach (a bball luminary) meets w/ women’s bball recruits as part of the recruiting process...
He decides to use academics as the hook, explaining to me (a 16-year-old girl) that I needed to prioritize academics (and attend their top-20 school), because there would never be professional opportunities for women in my sport.
Read 9 tweets
6 Mar
The “defense” of girls sports against trans folks by the same people who 20 years ago were bashing Title IX because it was “taking opportunities away” from mediocre boys is transparently insincere. These folks don’t care about girls sports —only about scoring political points.
As a former athlete, I am 100% supportive of including trans girls in girls sports.
Story. I’m old and rickety now, but when I was a kid, I was an athlete. A pretty darn good one. And my dad was my biggest fan. He would drive me to bball practices halfway across the state of TN and yell “burn, Katie, burn” as I sprinted down the soccer field.
Read 10 tweets
27 Feb
Just read two long articles about successful disinformation campaigns against James Le Mesurier and the White Helmets (international, context: Syria) and @MichaelDTubbs (hyper local, Stockton, CA). Super depressing. I think I’m going to close my eyes and go back to bed.
@MichaelDTubbs Alright, I’m up and back to fighting against this BS. Our @2020Partnership report on Mis/Disinformation in the 2020 election is due out this coming week… and we’ve got some work to do putting the finishing touches on that.
@MichaelDTubbs @2020Partnership BBC article on James Le Mesurier and the White Helmets: bbc.com/news/stories-5…
Read 4 tweets
7 Feb
Gateway Pundit played a key role in the “election fraud” disinfo campaign — repeatedly taking real world events (eg mail issues, discarded ballots, voting anomalies), falsely framing them as DEM voter fraud, & spreading those frames widely thru a multi platform media strategy.
GWP was among the most influential Twitter accounts in spreading false narratives about election fraud. It spread more distinct narratives/incidents of election disinfo than any other account. The GWP website was among the most linked to in tweets pushing those false narratives.
Another interesting thing about GWP: they were often influential in the early moments of an emergent narrative... sometimes bringing in a completely new story, other times helping to set the frame for an existing piece of “evidence” to fit it within the voter fraud narrative.
Read 4 tweets
6 Feb
Around the time that Twitter suspended @realDonaldTrump, they also suspended ~100,000 or so other accounts. We (@uwcip PhD student Andrew Beers) overlaid those suspensions onto a network graph of “influencers” in voting/election Twitter discourse (black sections of this graph).
@realDonaldTrump @uwcip On the political “right”, there is a section of highly active, pro-Trump accounts that have high #s of both friends + followers (probably from Trump train / follow back activity in the past). In our graph (and others) Qanon accounts are embedded into that larger MAGA network.
@realDonaldTrump @uwcip Twitter suspensions took out a massive section of those influential MAGA/QAnon accounts. Now, these weren’t rank-and-file accounts (in our graph), they were influencers (highly RTed by others). This graph doesn’t provide insight into accounts that weren't as visible/influential.
Read 8 tweets
5 Feb
A few years ago, we noted that online personas were beginning to look like caricatures of people (particularly along political identities). There were increasing numbers of hashtags in profiles, along graphical memes and symbols that were likely spreading via social networks.
*we = research community, broadly
The design of the systems were shaping the spread of those norms… e.g. recommendation systems incentivized adding political hashtags to a profile (as it would pick up other similarly identified followers).
Read 5 tweets
9 Jan
Anyone have a high-res screenshot of any of Trump’s tweets from Wed? Dark background, if possible. One issue with the suspension is we can’t retrieve screen shots of his tweets.
Missing context here. I’m giving a presentation featuring ~10 of his tweets from the past several months to talk about disinformation. If you’d prefer to send via DM, let me know we can do a mutual follow.
Also, I have the tweet ideas and text (from data collections we’re doing), but I don’t have the screenshots.
Read 5 tweets
8 Jan
Reading today that Charlie Kirk’s TPUSA—sent 80 bus loads to the Jan 6 riot/attack. Kirk’s Twitter account is one of the top “superspreaders” of false voter fraud claims — playing a significant role in feeding the conspiracy-theory-driven grievance that motivated those protesters
For example, the “SharpieGate” narrative (false claims that Trump voters were intentionally disenfranchised by being forced to vote with Sharpies) took off with the help of Kirk: Image
And here’s our list of accounts that were influential (>1000 retweets) in spreading >10 different “incidents” or false narratives about voter fraud (from falsely framed narratives around discarded mail-in ballots to SharpieGate to Dominion): Image
Read 5 tweets
7 Jan
Let’s talk about how the attempted take-over of the US Capitol came to pass. For months leading up to the general election, Pres. Trump sowed the seeds of doubt in the election, repeatedly tweeting that it would be “rigged”. (Thread)
Hyper-partisan right wing media and social media influencers cultivated that doubt. They amplified his rigged claims, and combed the internet for stories that they could fit into their developing theories of voter fraud.
Ballots from 2018 round in a recycling bin? Fraud! Ballots accidentally discarded in a trash can? Fraud! An information card mailed to an old address in CA (mislabeled as a “ballot”)? Fraud!

This started in September and continues today.
Read 13 tweets
7 Jan
Notice that one of the tweets pushing this Antifa conspiracy theory is Paul Sperry. Back in the Spring, he helped bring the hydroxychloroquine claims into the right wing discourse. Same accounts, over and over, helping disinfo go viral. Even across contexts.
In the election context, we have a list of accounts that repeatedly spread false and misleading claims about voter fraud. Repeat offenders. Super spreaders. Most are blue check verified. They include Trump, his sons, RW media figures from fringe to Fox. And right wing activists.
Sometimes they create new content. Often they just amplify others in their network. At this point, the accounts are tightly connected. The networks are WIRED FOR DISINFORMATION.
Read 5 tweets
4 Jan
Welcome to my Twitter thread demonstrating how right wing media and political organizations exploit science — and the Internet Archive — to spread misinformation downplaying the threat of Covid. @holden, I’m hoping you’ll like this. (1/many)
@holden The story begins this morning, when my <loved one> sends me a cryptic email asking me if I’m aware of this study and if its findings (downplaying the impact of Covid) are still holding up. The email includes this link: web.archive.org/web/2020112622…
@holden The URL linked to an article hosted by Internet Archive, originally posted Nov 22 to the “Johns Hopkins News-Letter", titled “A closer look at U.S. deaths due to COVID-19,” describing a “study” by a Hopkins-affiliated person claiming #s of Covid-related deaths are not concerning.
Read 14 tweets