Birds of a feather deceive together: The chicanery of multiplied metadata

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

Journal of Information Warfare




School of Science / Security Research Institute




Cook, D. M. (2014). Birds of a feather deceive together: The chicanery of multiplied metadata. Journal of Information Warfare, 13(4), 85-96. Available here


New Media conventions have fluttered along unforeseen flight paths. By combining sock-puppetry with the grouping power of metadata it is possible to demonstrate widespread influence through Twitter dispersion. In one nest there is a growing use of sock-puppetry accentuated by the exploitation of a social media that does not attempt to verify proof of identity. Created identities in their thousands can flock towards, and in support of, a single identity. They do so alongside legitimate accounts but in concert remain imperceptible within an overall group. In another nest there is the practise of homophily, captured through metadata, and used to imply connectivity and alliance by means of inference through the informational transfer of ideas through social media. Placed within the same thicket of trees, these nests manipulate authority, drive public opinion, and inflict deception. This study highlights the combination of identity masking, Sybil accounts, and their attraction using analogous attributes from the metadata of tweeted and retweeted narrative. The study examines the ethical, socio-political, and security implications of identity deception from Twitter. Data from the publicly available Twitter accounts of six prominent governmental figures indicates the retention and dispersion of metadata in retweets from their original counterparts. By examining both legitimate and Sybil accounts, we conclude that force-multiplied tweets can deploy homophily-driven influence in order to inaugurate credibility amid fake social media accounts.

Additional Information

Paper presented at the 13th European Conference on Cyber Warfare and Security (ECCWS ’14), University of Piraeus: Athens, Greece

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