Nav: Home

Fake Tweets, real consequences for the election

November 04, 2016

Software robots masquerading as humans are influencing the political discourse on social media as never before and could threaten the very integrity of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, said Emilio Ferrara, a computer scientist and research leader at the USC Information Sciences Institute (ISI), and USC Viterbi School of Engineering research assistant professor.

By leveraging state-of-the art bot detection algorithms, Ferrara and co-author Alessandro Bessi, a visiting research assistant at USC's ISI, have made a startling discovery: a surprisingly high percentage of the political discussion taking place on Twitter was created by pro-Donald Trump and pro-Hillary Clinton software robots, or social bots, with the express purpose of distorting the online discussion regarding the elections.

The researchers analyzed 20 million election-related tweets created between Sept. 16 and Oct. 21. They found that robots, rather than people, produced 3.8 million tweets, or 19 percent. Social bots also accounted for 400,000 of the 2.8 million individual users, or nearly 15 percent of the population under study.

"The presence of these bots can affect the dynamics of the political discussion in three tangible ways," writes in a recently released paper titled, "Social Bots Distort the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election Online Discussion," appearing in the journal First Monday.

"First, influence can be redistributed across suspicious accounts that may be operated with malicious purposes. Second, the political conversation can become further polarized. Third, spreading of misinformation and unverified information can be enhanced."

"As a result, the integrity of the 2016 U.S. presidential election could be possibly endangered."

Interestingly, Trump's robot-produced tweets were almost uniformly positive, boosting the candidate popularity. By contrast only half of Clinton's were, with the other half criticizing the nominee, according to the research paper. Georgia produced the most fake campaign-related tweets, the study reports.

Because of social bots' sophistication, it's often impossible to determine who creates them, although political parties, local, national and foreign governments and "even single individuals with adequate resources could obtain the operational capabilities and technical tools to deploy armies of social bots and affect the directions of online political conversation," the report says.

The "master puppeteers" behind influence bots, Ferrara added, often create fake Twitter and Facebook profiles. They do so by stealing online pictures, giving them fictitious names, and cloning biographical information from existing accounts. These bots have become so sophisticated that they can tweet, retweet, share content, comment on posts, "like" candidates, grow their social influence by following legitimate human accounts and even engage in human-like conversations.
-end-


University of Southern California

Related Robots Articles:

Tactile sensor gives robots new capabilities
Eight years ago, Ted Adelson's research group at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) unveiled a new sensor technology, called GelSight, that uses physical contact with an object to provide a remarkably detailed 3-D map of its surface.
Researchers question if banning of 'killer robots' actually will stop robots from killing
A University at Buffalo research team has published a paper that implies that the rush to ban and demonize autonomous weapons or 'killer robots' may be a temporary solution, but the actual problem is that society is entering into a situation where systems like these have and will become possible.
Soft robots that mimic human muscles
An EPFL team is developing soft, flexible and reconfigurable robots.
Team of robots learns to work together, without colliding
When you have too many robots together, they get so focused on not colliding with each other that they eventually just stop moving.
Social robots -- programmable by everyone
The startup LuxAI was created following a research project at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT) of the University of Luxembourg.
On the path toward molecular robots
Scientists at Hokkaido University have developed light-powered molecular motors that repetitively bend and unbend, bringing us closer to molecular robots.
Gentle strength for robots
A soft actuator using electrically controllable membranes could pave the way for machines that are no danger to humans.
Robots get creative to cut through clutter
Clutter is a special challenge for robots, but new Carnegie Mellon University software is helping robots cope, whether they're beating a path across the moon or grabbing a milk jug from the back of the refrigerator.
Humans can empathize with robots
Toyohashi Tech researchers in cooperation with researchers at Kyoto University have presented the first neurophysiological evidence of humans' ability to empathize with a robot in perceived pain.
Giving robots a more nimble grasp
Engineers at MIT have now hit upon a way to impart more dexterity to simple robotic grippers: using the environment as a helping hand.

Related Robots Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...