Researchers from Oxford University in the U.K. found that an automated army of pro-Donald J. Trump chatbots overwhelmed similar programs supporting Hillary Clinton five to one in the last few days of the U.S. presidential campaign. The chatbots would send messages on Twitter based on a topic, usually defined on Twitter by a word preceded by a hashtag symbol. The chatbots were used to rant, confuse people on facts, or simply muddy discussions, according to Oxford researcher Philip N. Howard.
"The use of automated accounts was deliberate and strategic throughout the election," the researchers say. Although they were unable to directly link the chatbots to either campaign, there was evidence the activity was part of an organized effort. "By the third debate, Trump bots were launching into their activity early and we noticed that automated accounts were actually colonizing Clinton hashtags," Howard says.
The researchers based their study on a collection of about 19.4 million Twitter posts gathered in the first nine days of November. The researchers selected tweets based on hashtags identifying certain subjects and identified automated posting by finding accounts that post at least 50 times a day. This strategy of using deceptive social media campaigns has been dubbed "computational propaganda."
From The New York Times
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