We received many requests from users for help interpreting the various kinds of diffusion networks on the website. This gallery shows examples of both legitimate and truthy memes.


The #tcot hashtag represents the "Top Conservatives On Twitter." This is the most popular meme we track: it has the most users, the second most tweets (after #news), and the third largest diffusion network (after @barackobama and #p2). The most active account, @COH2HOG, has posted over 116,000 tweets.

The conversation about #usa is spread out into different clusters, as we can see here. This suggests that there are many different "camps," or communities who talk about this topic, with different cultures, languages, or belief structures.

This meme is the username of a politician's account, and represents conversations about him. We can see a huge orange cluster, signifying many people who mention this candidate in their tweets.

This is a good example of a "truthy" meme. The account @PeaceKaren_25 does not disclose information about the identity of its owner. It has generated a very large number of tweets (over 10,000 in four months). Almost all of these tweets support several candidates, retweeting or mentioning them. @PeaceKaren_25's tweets also frequently include links to various websites supporting the same candidates. There is another account, @HopeMarie_25, that also does not disclose its identity, and has generated a similar number of tweets. @HopeMarie_25 has a similar behavior to @PeaceKaren_25 in retweeting the accounts of the same candidates and boosting the same websites, but it does not produce any original tweets, and in addition it retweets all of @PeaceKaren_25's tweets, promoting the @PeaceKaren_25 account. The names and behaviors of the two accounts suggest that they are colluding and are most likely controlled by the same entity. We do not know if these are bots, managed by humans, or a combination. The appearance of a grassroots campaign (multiple people independently tweeting about these candidates) is what we call astroturfing. These accounts have also succeeded at creating a "twitter bomb": Google searches for names in the tweets returned these tweets in the first page of results. These behaviors seem to violate Twitter's TOS, especially in regard to impersonation and serial accounts (see http://support.twitter.com/articles/18311-the-twitter-rules). In the visualization of the meme diffusion network, we see @PeaceKaren_25 connected to @HopeMarie_25 through the very thick blue (retweet) edge, indicating that @HopeMarie_25 retweets @PeaceKaren_25 constantly.

An example of a grassroots political communication network. #bahrain is a country undergoing enormous political upheaval.

A classic example of Twitter spam. The meme is the account in the center. A bunch of accounts collude by retweeting each other (as displayed by the thick blue edges) to promote a particular website. Different tweets include links to different pages from the promoted site. Many accounts may be bots controlled by the same spammer, or by different participants in a "follow back" and mutual retweet scheme. All tweets include many popular but irrelevant hashtags in an effort to catch public attention. These behaviors clearly violate Twitter's TOS (see http://support.twitter.com/articles/18311-the-twitter-rules).

This is widely used and an example of a popular, grassroots meme. In the diffusion network we can often observe two clearly separated clusters. These correspond to conservative and liberal communities, using the tag in different ways. People tend to retweet others in the same community and not in the other community, so we see the clusters in blue. We also see orange edges connecting the two communities. These occur when users mention people in the other community, typically to disagree or criticize.

A website of a group that supports a politician. The website displays anti-Muslim propaganda, including a graphic video of beheadings by the Taliban. Most of the tweets originate from one account, which has generated over 15,000 tweets. The identity of the person behind the website and Twitter account is not disclosed.

This is one of a set of truthy memes smearing a candidate for U.S. Senate. Looking at the injection points of these memes, we uncovered a network of about ten bot accounts --- the peripheral nodes in the graph. They inject thousands of memes, all of which link to posts from the same website. To avoid detection by Twitter, duplicate tweets are disguised by adding different hashtags or tweaking the web addresses. To generate retweeting cascades, the bots also coordinate mentioning a few popular users (such as the one seen in the center of the graph). These targets get the appearance of receiving the same news from a lot of different people, and are more likely to think it is true, and spread it to their followers. Most of the bot accounts in this network can be traced back to one person, who also runs the linked website. They seem to be in violation of Twitter's TOS, especially in regard to impersonation and serial accounts (see http://support.twitter.com/articles/18311-the-twitter-rules).

This is one of a set of truthy memes smearing a candidate for U.S. Senate. Looking at the injection points of these memes, we uncovered a network of about ten bot accounts --- the peripheral nodes in the graph. They inject thousands of memes, all of which link to posts from the same website. To avoid detection by Twitter, duplicate tweets are disguised by adding different hashtags or tweaking the web addresses. To generate retweeting cascades, the bots also coordinate mentioning a few popular users (such as the one seen in the center of the graph). These targets get the appearance of receiving the same news from a lot of different people, and are more likely to think it is true, and spread it to their followers. Most of the bot accounts in this network can be traced back to one person, who also runs the linked website. They seem to be in violation of Twitter's TOS, especially in regard to impersonation and serial accounts (see http://support.twitter.com/articles/18311-the-twitter-rules).

This meme promotes a propaganda video. Some may consider the content of the video "truthy." The link is retweeted by many users, who seem to belong to a large clique of extremely active accounts. They retweet and mention each other. Each emits thousands of tweets, and follows and is followed by thousands of other accounts in the clique.

A political hashtag used by many users on Twitter. What makes this meme suspicious is that the bursts of activity are driven by two accounts controlled by the same user, in violation of Twitter TOS, and in an effort to give the impression that more people are tweeting about the same topics. One account is the node at the center of the network and the other is one of the other nodes; the latter generates most tweets mentioning the hashtag by retweeting the former. This user posts the same tweets using the two accounts. This way he has generated a total of over 41,000 tweets.

This meme is @sarahpalinusa, the Twitter account of Sarah Palin. This is an example of the diffusion patterns we observe around celebrities and other popular, influential people. Users in the orange cluster mention @sarahpalinusa (in the center) or address tweets to her. Some of these are critical (away from the blue). Others are supporters, and we observe that those users also retweet @sarahpalinusa (blue edges).

The pattern we observe for the account of Senator John McCain is similar to that of other popular users, with an interesting twist. The orange cluster is made of mentions of @SenJohnMcCain (supporters and critics), with the account in the center. In addition, we observe a blue cluster of retweets centered around @ladygaga. The reason is that Lady Gaga was critical of McCain's opposition to the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) law about gays in the military. She addressed McCain both in a speech and via Twitter, and many of her numerous fans (she is one of the most popular Twitter users with almost 7 million followers) retweeted her tweet mentioning @SenJohnMcCain.

The #nvsen meme concerns the Nevada seat for U.S. Senate, one of the most competitive races. We see a lot of activity in the two camps, led by democratic candidate Harry Reid and republican candidate Sharron Angle (the latter being more retweeted). The two communities do not retweet each other, but they mention opponents, as shown by the orange edges. A lot of activity comes from suspicious accounts, which could be bots.

An artificial "Truthy" meme that we injected ourselves. When our own Johan Bollen was interviewed on NPR Science Friday (@scifri), the show staff tweeted the following invitation: "please help w/ this week's @scifri show: #truthy experiment on meme propagation with @truthyatindiana. please retweet". Many of the 80K+ @scifri followers heeded the request and we monitored how the #truthy meme propagated through the network.