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Twitter bots spread misinformation in 2016 US presidential election: Study

Twitter bots spread misinformation in 2016 US presidential election: Study

Automated accounts or “bots” played a disproportionate role in spreading online during the 2016 US presidential election, according to a study.

The research, published in the journal Nature Communications, analysed 14 million messages and 400,000 articles shared on between May 2016 and March 2017.

The period spans the end of the 2016 presidential primaries and the presidential inauguration on January 20, 2017.

Researchers from Indiana University in the US found that a mere six per cent of accounts that the study identified as bots were enough to spread 31 per cent of the “low-credibility” information on the network.

These accounts were also responsible for 34 per cent of all articles shared from “low-credibility” sources, they found.

The study also found that bots played a major role promoting low-credibility content in the first few moments before a story goes viral.

The brief length of this time — 2 to 10 seconds —

highlights the challenges of countering the spread of online, researchers said.

Similar issues are seen in other complex environments like the stock market, where serious problems can arise in mere moments due to the impact of high-frequency trading.

“This study finds that bots significantly contribute to the spread of online — as well as shows how quickly these messages can spread,” said Filippo Menczer, a professor at Indiana University.

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