Battling the Bots

Battling the Bots

Internet robots or bots are used to perform repetitive jobs or send automatic interactions online. Recent studies have shown that bots now account for more activity on Twitter than humans. The majority of all tweets that share links to popular websites and articles, about 66 percent, are actually shared by bots.

The most active bots on Twitter are responsible for 22 percent of all tweeted links which means that they produce four times as many tweets as the average human user. The findings suggest that bots have taken over Twitter with the amount of link sharing tweets that they are posting online. Even more alarming is that bots account for 89 percent of the links shared to news sites like Google news.

Bots can be used to manipulate the algorithms that news sites use to determine the links to articles that people see in their newsfeed. News stories then can quickly go viral and be significantly affected by link-sharing bots that are manipulating what people see online. If the goal of certain bots is political propaganda they may be able to influence what people read and what their opinions are on certain subjects.

Studies of the 2016 elections suggested that bots generated tweets promoting certain candidates. Although most bots tend to be ideologically mixed, they can have specific political agendas and a goal in mind as far the news stories and articles they are sharing. It is even possible for foreign governments to use bots as online propaganda tools in order to cause problems within the United States.

Bots can be a serious issue of integrity on the internet if they have the power of making certain stories seem more popular than others. They may have the ability to sway people’s opinion by dictating what information is exposed to them. It is something to consider for those who are concerned about the possible negative influence of bots online.