Tweets that contain malicious links are more likely to contain negative emotions, and it is the content of the tweet that increases the likelihood of being liked and shared , as researchers from the University of Cardiff have shown for the first time.
The new study has been published in the journal ACM Transactions on the Web .
As part of the study, the team analyzed a random sample of around 275,000 from a corpus of more than 3.5 million tweets that were sent during seven major sporting events: the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the 2015 Superbowl and 2016, the 2015 Cricket World Cup, the 2015 Rugby World Cup, UEFA EURO 2016 and the 2016 Olympics.
The team identified 105,642 tweets that contained malicious URLs and 169,178 tweets that contained benign URLs from this dataset, and then used sophisticated computer models to estimate how these tweets survived on the platform 24 hours after the sporting event.
Tweets that were classified as benign were more likely to spread if a user had a large following and the tweet contained positive emotions such as "team", "love", "happy", "enjoyment" and "fun".
However, the results showed that malicious tweets were not strongly associated with the number of followers of the poster and were more likely to spread when the content of the tweet contained negative emotions . Tweets that reflected fear were 114% more likely to be retweeted, with words like "kill," "fight," "shoot," and "controversy" regularly featured in tweets that contained malicious URLs.
Cybercriminals are increasingly using this method, known as an "unauthorized download attack," to hide a malicious URL in an attractive tweet and use it as click bait to lure users to a malicious web page.
The study suggests that the results show that even with Twitter’s security measures, malicious URLs can still go undetected and that this gap is large enough to expose millions of users to malware in a short period of time.