Methodological challenges of studying social media from the perspective of information manipulation
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The first part of the thesis gives a systematic overview and conceptual analysis of the literature on studying misinformation and disinformation in social media, with a special focus on research projects using large scale data obtained from Twitter and Facebook. The literature review gives a detailed overview of the scope of data collected by the various research projects; the means of accessing the data, which are rooted in the concrete socio-technical arrangement of the various platforms, and the type of analytical tools they apply. Furthermore, it also maps the various theoretical questions behind the research projects. The author of the thesis also gives his own definition of information manipulation and describes a conceptual model of information manipulation in the context of social media. The second part of the thesis applies some of the insights from the literature review to a large Twitter data set collected during the monitoring of African elections. The analysis follows a qualitative approach and focuses on case studies created from specific incidents during the elections. Each of these incidents illustrates a special aspect of the problem of information manipulation in online social media.