An analysis of #GamerGate tweets found that users of the hashtag have older accounts, are more engaged, less joyful, and suspended less often than the average Twitter user. Researchers released their paper titled “Measuring #GamerGate: A Tale of Hate, Sexism, and Bullying” ahead of the Workshop on Computational Methods for CyberSafety in April. While the paper contains few surprises, some of the information is particularly interesting.
Looking at 1.6 million tweets between June and August of 2016, the researchers found that 340,000 unique users participated in the #GamerGate hashtag. Previously, the only data we had about the number of Gamergate supporters was around 150,000 people collected by Chris von Csefalvay back in late 2014 and early 2015.
Further, despite the claims by many that Gamergate is mostly filled with sock puppet accounts created specifically to support the movement, this new analysis has found that Gamergate-supporting accounts tend to be older than a random sampling of baseline accounts. The mean age for Gamergate-supporting accounts was 982.94 days, nearly half a year older than random users, which is 834.39 days.
The report also found that Gamergate-supporting accounts are much less likely to be suspended by Twitter for violations of its rules than the average user. While 20% of the baseline has been suspended, only 9% of Gamergate-supporting accounts have been. The researchers postulate that this may be due to Twitter catching a large number of spam accounts, but present no evidence to support that claim.
The researchers compared the tweets with the Hatebase open source database and found Gamergate supporters use slightly more hateful words than average. The only significant difference in tweet content was that Gamergate supporters tend to be less joyful, they found. “This is particularly interesting because it contradicts the narrative that Gamergaters are posting virulent content out of anger. Instead, GG users are less joyful, and this is a subtle but important difference: they are not necessarily angry, but they are apparently not happy.”
Considering it is a movement of people unhappy with game journalism, censorship, journalism in general, social justice, among many other topics, that makes sense.
The researchers plan to do further research into Gamergate, “focusing on how it evolved over time.”
Update: You can find a live stream of me offering my opinions of the paper here.