Are you debating robots on Twitter?

In this week’s Brain Boost: are you debating robots on Twitter?

Researchers and data scientists at the University of Southern California have found that roughly 400,000 bots were tweeting and retweeting during the 2016 United States presidential election, responsible for roughly 20% of all of the election-related content on Twitter.

They were used by both candidates though Donald Trump was employing around 300,000 bots and Hillary Clinton was using around 100,000. Also, the content of each of the candidates’ bot armies was strikingly different.

Here are some sample tweets from each of the candidates’ bots…

Top anti-Clinton Tweet by a Trump Bot:

“@dreamedofdust: #NeverHillary ! Without A Doubt That FBI Director James Comey Covered Up Hillary Clinton’s Lies, Gave Immunity To …”

Top anti-Trump Tweet by a Clinton Bot

“@natespuewell: #NeverTrump Those fake, nonsense polls are actually real, good polls, Trump’s spokesman insists — Campaign of lies”

Now, what these researchers and data scientists found out is that the human users of the network are not capable of distinguishing between a bot and human. In fact, human users of Twitter retweeted bots at the same rate that they retweeted humans.

Even the researchers themselves were often not able to distinguish between a Tweet that was generated by a human and one that was generated by a bot.

There are some key differences, though, between bots and humans. First of all, these bots produce a huge volume of Tweets. They generated around half a million tweets with the hashtag #election2016 alone and many of these bots have been engineered with artificial intelligence so they can search for, read, and respond to human users in human-like bursts.

So, that Twitter debate that you might have gotten into during the election might not have been with a human. It might have been with a bot.

Now, we’ve grown to think of Twitter as good for providing a discussion forum for the connected citizens of the world, however, social media platforms are starting to pose a major risk to people because they can be manipulated with technologies like bots. Misinformation, rumors, and conspiracy theories can seem legitimate because of the sheer volume of artificially created conversation.

This will leave real people to wonder what is true and what is fiction.

You can check out more about this study here and keep an eye out for the brand new episode of What’s Next as the Eazl team takes you to Washington DC to meet the innovators and entrepreneurship hubs of the city…all politics aside.


Davis Jones

Davis Jones

Head of Product at Eazl
Davis Jones is a communicator, academic, and content maker with 9 years of experience in content marketing, recruitment, product management and everything else that it takes to launch businesses. Located in Chicago and San Francisco.
Davis Jones