Hiding in Plain Sight: A Tale of Trust and Mistrust inside a Community of Citizen Reporters


  • Eni Mustafaraj Wellesley College
  • Panagiotis Metaxas Wellesley College
  • Samantha Finn Wellesley College
  • Andres Monroy-Hernandez Microsoft Research




anonymity, citizen reporters, community, Twitter


The large volume of user-generated content on the Social Web puts a high burden on the participants to evaluate the accuracy and quality of such content. Researchers have been trying to address this problem by focusing on discovering in- fluential entities inside social platforms to guide their ranking algorithms. Often these entities correspond to people or orga- nizations already influential in the real-world. However, not everywhere in the world is there a right to and protection of free speech. In countries where the traditional media cannot report the truth, anonymity becomes a necessity for citizens who want to exercise their right of free-speech in the service of their community. But is it possible for anonymous individuals to become influ- ential and gain the trust of a community? In this paper, we discuss the case of a community of Twitter citizen reporters, located in a Mexican city plagued by the drug cartels fighting for control of territory. Our analysis shows that the most in- fluential individuals inside the community were anonymous accounts. Neither the Mexican authorities, nor the drug car- tels were happy about the real-time citizen reporting of crime or anti-crime operations in an open social network such as Twitter, and we discovered external pressures to this com- munity and its influential players to change their reporting behavior.




How to Cite

Mustafaraj, E., Metaxas, P., Finn, S., & Monroy-Hernandez, A. (2021). Hiding in Plain Sight: A Tale of Trust and Mistrust inside a Community of Citizen Reporters. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 6(1), 250-257. https://doi.org/10.1609/icwsm.v6i1.14276