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Fake News Bots Are Here


Russian Twitter bots and more haven’t stopped pumping out propaganda and disinformation since the election. We’ll look at the power and prevalence of social media bots.

How do you judge public opinion on any given issue? What others are thinking? Paying attention to? If social media play into your read, watch out. When it comes to politics in particular, social media can be overrun with, twisted by, bots. Automated accounts – not real people — deployed in their hundreds and thousands to pump a certain perspective on news online. The president responded to a bogus account this weekend – welcoming its support. This hour On Point: bots invade the political world. — Tom Ashbrook


Clint Watts, fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at the George Washington University. Creator of Hamilton 68, a dashboard tracking Russian propaganda on Twitter.  (@selectedwisdom)

Sam Woolley, director of research of the Computational Propaganda Project at Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford. (@samuelwoolley)

From Tom’s Reading List

Newsweek: Russian Bots Are Starting To Attack The Republican Party — “Russian-linked bots and trolls have caused a surge in use of the hashtag #ResignPaulRyan on Twitter over the last 48 hours, just as the Republican speaker of the House was returning to his home state of Wisconsin for a month-long respite from Washington, D.C. The unusual boost in Russian bots targeting a Republican lawmaker was first observed by the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, created after the 2016 presidential election to ‘defend against, deter, and raise the costs on Russian and other state actors’ efforts to undermine democracy and democratic institutions.'”

WIRED: How Bots, Twitter, and Hackers Pushed Trump to the Finish Line — “As the Democratic and Republican parties scramble for new tactics, they will turn to, and on occasion joust with, technology more intensely — though not always in the ways we might expect. This year, bots took on new prominence; cybersecurity breaches exposed the inner workings of Clinton’s campaign; and the influence of Silicon Valley heavyweights grew even larger.”

CNBC: As many as 48 million Twitter accounts aren’t people, says study — “A big chunk of those ‘likes,’ ‘retweets,’ and ‘followers’ lighting up your Twitter account may not be coming from human hands. According to new research from the University of Southern California and Indiana University, up to 15 percent of Twitter accounts are in fact bots rather than people. The research could be troubling news for Twitter, which has struggled to grow its user base in the face of growing competition from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and others.”

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