ACE Seminar: Towards Understanding the Behavior of State-Sponsored Trolls and their Influence on the Web

Speaker: Savvas Zannettou

Date/Time: 08-Aug-2019, 16:30 UTC

Venue: Roberts 309



Recent evidence has emerged linking coordinated campaigns by state-sponsored actors to manipulate public opinion on the Web. Campaigns revolving around major political events are enacted via mission-focused “trolls.” While trolls are involved in spreading disinformation on social media, there is little understanding of how they operate, what type of content they disseminate, how their strategies evolve over time, how their behavior compares to benign users, and how they influence the Web’s information ecosystem. 

In this talk, we will present our analysis on Russian and Iranian trolls on Twitter and Reddit. We will shed light into these questions by undertaking a large-scale quantitative analysis of the text and images posted by state-sponsored trolls on the Web.


Savvas Zannettou is a PhD candidate from Cyprus University of Technology, under the supervision of Dr. Michael Sirivianos. In 2014 and 2016 he received respectively the BSc and MSc degrees in Computer Engineering from Cyprus University of Technology. During 2014, he was a Research Intern at NEC Labs Europe for 6 months where he worked on Software-Defined Networks. During 2017 and 2018, he was a Research Intern at Telefonica Research for 12 months and a Visiting Scholar for 6 months at University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is primarily interested in applying large-scale cross-platform quantitative analysis to understand emerging socio-technical issues like the spread of disinformation/misinformation and hateful content across the Web. During his PhD, he received two first-author best paper awards: one at IMC 2018 and one at the Cybersafety workshop (co-located with WWW 2019).

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