Authorship attribution for Twitter in 140 characters or less

Robert Layton*, Paul Watters, Richard Dazeley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review

97 Citations (Scopus)


Authorship attribution is a growing field, moving from beginnings in linguistics to recent advances in text mining. Through this change came an increase in the capability of authorship attribution methods both in their accuracy and the ability to consider more difficult problems. Research into authorship attribution in the 19th century considered it difficult to determine the authorship of a document of fewer than 1000 words. By the 1990s this values had decreased to less than 500 words and in the early 21st century it was considered possible to determine the authorship of a document in 250 words. The need for this ever decreasing limit is exemplified by the trend towards many shorter communications rather than fewer longer communications, such as the move from traditional multi-page handwritten letters to shorter, more focused emails. This trend has also been shown in online crime, where many attacks such as phishing or bullying are performed using very concise language. Cybercrime messages have long been hosted on Internet Relay Chats (IRCs) which have allowed members to hide behind screen names and connect anonymously. More recently, Twitter and other short message based web services have been used as a hosting ground for online crimes. This paper presents some evaluations of current techniques and identifies some new preprocessing methods that can be used to enable authorship to be determined at rates significantly better than chance for documents of 140 characters or less, a format popularised by the micro-blogging website Twitter. We show that the SCAP methodology performs extremely well on twitter messages and even with restrictions on the types of information allowed, such as the recipient of directed messages, still perform significantly higher than chance. Further to this, we show that 120 tweets per user is an important threshold, at which point adding more tweets per user gives a small but non-significant increase in accuracy.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings - Second Cybercrime and Trustworthy Computing Workshop, CTC 2010
Place of PublicationPiscataway, USA
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9780769541860
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes
EventCybercrime and Trustworthy Computing Workshop (2nd : 2010) - Ballarat, VIC, Canada
Duration: 19 Jul 201020 Jul 2010


ConferenceCybercrime and Trustworthy Computing Workshop (2nd : 2010)
Abbreviated titleCTC 2010
CityBallarat, VIC


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