Clusters and constellations: Untwisting shortened links



Frequent users of social services such as Twitter are now familiar with the use of URL shortening services to produce compressed versions of actionable URLs. Although the typical user motivation for these is often taken to be convenience – particularly in the matter of reducing the amount of space taken by a link during a tweet, these shortening services are also used for various other purposes, including the collection of analytics for marketing purposes. In this poster we present the initial findings from our analysis of 350,000 tweets from Twitter on a subject close to the hearts of many ASIS&T conference attendees – the TSA (transport security administration). These tweets, gathered over a period of six weeks, primarily collect together reactions to a number of events and announcements of both positively and negatively nature, and as such, contain a large number of encoded URLs. We show the result of back-tracking URLs to their origin, demonstrating that it is now commonplace for URLs to be redirected through more than one redirection service. From analysis of the shortening services used we demonstrate that the majority of shortened URLs make use of one of a very small number of services, although these may be identified via an alias. Finally, we discuss the implications of these findings, both in terms of preservation and our ability to access the context of older Twitter conversations, and in terms of the implications for developers of user applications or content analysis platforms.