Digital Propaganda Or ‘Normal’ Political Polarization? A Case Study of Political Debate on Polish Twitter

This policy brief by Katarzyna Szymielewicz and Karolina Iwańska at the Panoptykon Foundation draws on the findings of research conducted by Pawel Popiel and Emad Khazraee for the Internet Policy Observatory and submitted for academic publication. This collaborative research sought to better understand the shape of political debate on Polish Twitter, the role of Bots and false amplifiers, and political polarization in these spaces. This research was conducted in September and October of 2017, with one million tweets collected and analyzed.

Findings include:

  • Polish Twitter is extremely polarized. With little space for dialogue and connections between opposing political factions.
  • Bots (false amplifiers) are used for influence-boosting, but on their own they do not change or create trends. Prominent individuals and well-established organiations (politicians, journalists, mainstream media) shape political discourse on Twitter, not bots.
  • Using network analysis alone, it is nearly impossible to differentiate false amplifiers from professionally managed accounts. Deeper, qualitative analysis is needed to supplement social network analysis to better determine who is tweeting and for what reason.


This collaborative partnership is part of the Internet Policy Observatory’s Research for Impact Program, which builds research projects with joint advocacy and academic objectives.

To read the Panoptykon summary, website and policy brief see here.

To read a blog post about the academic paper from the authors, Pawel Popiel and Emad Khazraee, click here.

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