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Fraud, plot, or collective delusion? Social media and perceptions of electoral misconduct in the 2014 scottish independence referendum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Sarah Birch, Fatma Elsafoury

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)470-484
Number of pages15
JournalElection Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy
Volume16
Issue number4
Early online date19 Sep 2017
DOIs
Accepted/In press17 Aug 2017
E-pub ahead of print19 Sep 2017
Published1 Dec 2017

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Abstract

Online discussions of electoral fraud are becoming an increasingly important aspect of the electoral landscape in many contexts, as cyberspace is one of the few places where concerns about electoral conduct can be aired openly and freely. But it is often difficult to assess what this online activity tells us about actual electoral processes. This article analyzes a surge of tweets about electoral fraud at the time of the Scottish independence referendum of 2014 in order to ascertain whether this online activity reflected: (a) actual offline fraud observed by the social media users, (b) a concerted effort to undermine confidence in electoral administration, or (c) a collective delusion. Data mining and machine learning techniques are deployed in this analysis, which comes out strongly in favor of the collective delusion hypothesis.

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