The bot app

  • The bot, an app that performs automated tasks as if it were human, has widely been associated with the spread of fake news on social media. When humans too are known to spread fake news, which one plays what kind of role? A new study, published in Nature Communications, looks at the disproportionate contribution of bots and humans in the spread of misinformation on Twitter.
  • A key finding is that bots amplify low-credibility content in the early spreading moments — they heavily tweet links to such articles, before these go “viral”. Bots also target high-profile handles through replies and mentions. Then humans take over — vulnerable to this manipulation, they re-share content posted by bots.

  • The researchers used two tools they had developed. “Hoaxy” is a system that tracks the spread, on Twitter, of low-credibility as well as fact-checking articles. “Botometer” is a machine-learning tool to identify social bots.



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