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Real or Not? USC Study Finds Many Political Tweets Come From Fake Accounts


Social bots are fake accounts that flood Twitter with automatically generated content.

Content generated by bots made up nearly a fifth of all political discourse on Twitter this campaign season, according to newly published findings by computer scientists at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineerings Information Sciences Institute.

Credit: iStock

University of Southern California (USC) researchers have found bots made up nearly 20 percent of the political conversation on Twitter during the campaign season.  

"We need to guarantee that this platform is reliable and that it does not compromise the democratic political process by fostering the spread of rumors or misinformation," says USC professor Emilio Ferrara.

The researchers analyzed 20 million election-related tweets in three periods between Sept. 16 and Oct. 21, 2016, by querying the Twitter Search application programming interface. The researchers ran "political tweets" through the "Bot or Not" algorithm, and found Twitter bot accounts produced 19% of all election tweets during the study's time frame.

In addition, social bots accounted for 400,000 of the 2.8 million individual users tweeting about the election, or nearly 15% of the population being studied.

The researchers also examined the expressions of positivity and negativity in political discourse, generated by both bot and human tweets. The researchers found President-Elect Donald Trump had a significantly higher number of bot supporters, and Ferrara says Twitter could serve as a bellwether for how disinformation and misrepresentation might be generated automatically across other online and social platforms.

"Other social networks like Facebook are finding it challenging to validate information sources as well," he notes.

From USC News 
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Abstracts Copyright © 2016 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


 

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