Are bots the new internet influencers?
Web Log: New research shows automated Twitter accounts behind trending hashtags
Those concerned about the malicious spread of fake news can take comfort that these bots can also help raise awareness for various causes. Photograph: Dado Ruvic/Reuters
When something becomes a trending topic on Twitter, the assumption is that the Twittersphere is abuzz with interest. But it could be “fake buzz” (not to be confused with fake news) generated by bots and not real people.
New research from the University of Georgia has found that, in some cases, these automated Twitter accounts are the influencers behind trending hashtags.
Those concerned about the malicious spread of fake news can take comfort that these bots can also help raise awareness for various causes and in turn gain media coverage for under-reported societal issues.
“[Bots] may be used to spread fake news, but they may also be used to spread facts,” says Elena Karahanna, professor of management information systems at the University of Georgia and co-author of the study.
“And I think that’s where the ethical line is. If they are spreading the truth, it’s not unethical.”