We have previously reported on issues of censorship by bots in Mexican twitter and we’ve experienced the censorship ourselves in real time while trying to report on situations in Mexico. When Mexican twitter bots are activated the effects on Mexican trending topics are immediate. The bots severely interfere with Mexican citizens’ ability to communicate with each other and their ability to get news out to the world. The bots attack journalists and media outlets online and in the case of #RompeElMiedo during #1DMX protests, bots prevented dissemination of safety alerts, putting protesters’ lives in danger.
The team at LoQueSigue has launched a campaign to develop a new version of the open source software they currently use to track and identify bots.
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“Support us to create a free online software so that thousands can help us deal with bots and censorship. This technology we use besides detecting bots attacks, can be used to connect and disseminate information better. It can also detect good things in the network where open communication can create a super-network uniting several free medias by which we can disseminate in seconds everything they want to censor and do not want to be known of Mexico.”
LoQueSigue uses open source data visualization software called Gelphi which they have modified to detect and track bots in Mexican twitter trends. When bots are active, the software detects the automated activity and creates a visual representation. Speech from human users when analyzed via Gelphi is shown below in pink & purple and looks organic, taking on a shape that appears almost biological. Bots always appear as rigid, unnatural shapes that stand out clearly from human twitter users. Bots are shown below (top left) in the two gold and green shapes. LoQueSigue refers to these unnatural formations as “tumors” and they are infecting the networks in Mexico.
The above image is a visual rendering of speech in Mexican twitter. LoQueSigue also creates video animations showing the devastating effects that bots have on twitter trends. The following animation shows the bot attack in real time that was launched against hashtag #YaMeCanse. The trend was neutralized by bots in seconds:
This software can be modified to do more than just detect bots. Alberto Escorcia, lead developer from LoQueSigue, tells us that Gelphi has scientific origins and is used to analyze molecules, geophysical data and anything that creates networks and can be visualized. In the case of social networks it can be used to analyze the manner in which online conversation is carried out. For example during a natural disaster, conversation takes on a certain shape. Conversation about Christmas takes on a different geometric form. When bots attack they have a very particular shape. Before any event a certain pattern is created. If we have the ability to analyze all tweets in Gelphi, it would be possible to detect trending topics before they happen.
The software can also be used to maintain trends like #YaMeCanse and defend against bot attacks, protecting free speech and connecting networks to amplify the spread of information. LoQueSigue intends to develop their current software further and train others to use it. They will create a new version that will be open source and available for free use online to be used for defense against bot attacks as well as other purposes.
“If we can teach others to use the networks to report freely and to create cool projects, in a free culture we will achieve faster change. Being informed will make us free and free information generates changes.” – Alberto Escorcia
The following video is a short tutorial (Spanish) explaining how Gelphi is currently being used:
We are very excited to see what LoQueSigue can develop with global support of their project. Please help spread their campaign and donate if you are able. The money donated will help the team at LoQueSigue develop new open source software, automate their work flow and help them train others to use it.