S-400s, Disinformation, and Anti-American Sentiment in Turkey


  • Russell Korb Old Dominion University
  • Saltuk Karahan Old Dominion University
  • Gowri Prathap George Mason University
  • Ekrem Kaya George Mason University
  • Luke Palmieri
  • Hamdi Kavak George Mason University https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4307-2381




Social Media Analysis, Disinformation, Natural Language Processing, Anti-Americanism, Astroturfing


As social and political discourse in most countries becomes more polarized, anti-Americanism has
risen not only in the Middle East and Latin America but also among the U.S. allies in Europe. Social media is
one platform used to disseminate anti-American views in NATO countries, and its effectiveness can be
magnified when mass media, public officials, and popular figures adopt these views. Disinformation, in
particular, has gained recognition as a cybersecurity issue from 2016 onward, but disinformation can be
manufactured domestically in addition to being part of a foreign influence campaign. In this paper, we analyze
Turkish tweets using sentiment analysis techniques and compare the model's results to the manual
investigation based on qualitative research. We investigate institutional conditions, social and mass media
control, and the state of political discourse in Turkey and focus on narratives pertaining to the purchase of S-
400 missiles from Russia by Turkey, as well as the actors spreading these narratives, analyzing for popularity,
narrative type, and bot-like behavior. Our findings suggest that although anti-American sentiment has held
relatively steady in Turkey since 2003, the tightening of control over mass media networks in Turkey and the
adoption of conspiratorial rhetoric by President Erdogan and his allies in the AKP from 2014 onward amplified
anti-American sentiment and exacerbated negative sentiment on social media by pitting users against one
another. This study and its findings are important because they highlight the importance of social and
psychological components of cybersecurity. The ease by which disinformation efforts, influence operations,
and other “softer” forms of cyber- and information warfare can be carried out means that they will only grow
more common.

Author Biographies

Russell Korb, Old Dominion University

Alex Korb is a PhD student and graduate research assistant at Old Dominion University, Virginia, USA. He received his Master’s degree in International Studies in 2019. His primary research interests are cyber- and information warfare, globalization and internet culture, and disinformation.

Saltuk Karahan, Old Dominion University

Dr. Saltuk Karahan a Lecturer and the Interim Director of School of Cybersecurity at Old Dominion University. He has been teaching undergraduate and graduate level courses including Cyber War, Leadership and Management in Cybersecurity and Advanced Cyber Law and Policy at ODU. Dr. Karahan’s research interests and projects focus on the central themes of interdisciplinary approach to cybersecurity education and how the developments in information security technology impact international security.

Gowri Prathap, George Mason University

Gowri Prathap holds a bachelor of science degree in Computational and Data Sciences from George Mason University (GMU). She is currently a TECDP analyst working at Cigna. Before joining Cigna, she worked as a research and teaching assistant at GMU. Her research interests are Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. 

Ekrem Kaya, George Mason University

Ekrem Kaya is a sophomore at George Mason University (GMU) majoring in Computational and Data Sciences. He is both a University Scholar in the Honors College and a Promise Scholar in the College of Science. He is currently a research assistant, working on a project sponsored by the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative at GMU.

Luke Palmieri

Luke Palmieri is a recent graduate of George Mason University (GMU) with a B.S. in Computational and Data Science, and is an incoming Analytics and Modeling Associate at Fannie Mae.

Hamdi Kavak, George Mason University

Dr. Hamdi Kavak is an Assistant Professor in the Computational and Data Sciences Department and co-director of the Center for Social Complexity at George Mason University. His research interests lie at the intersection of data science and modeling & simulation. His email and website addresses are hkavak@gmu.edu and http://www.hamdikavak.com.