Twitter, Social Bots, and the US Presidential Elections!

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First Monday: Social bots distort the 2016 U.S. Presidential election online discussion

Our paper titled Social bots distort the 2016 U.S. Presidential election online discussion was published on the November 2016 issue of First Monday and selected as Editor’s featured article!

We investigated how social bots, automatic accounts that populate the Twitter-sphere, are distorting the online discussion about the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections. In a nutshell, we discovered that:

  • About one-in-five tweets regarding the elections has been posted by a bot, totalling about 4 Million tweets posted during the month prior to the elections by over 400,000 bots.
  • Regular (human) users cannot determine whether the source of some specific information is another legitimate user or a bot: therefore, bots are being retweeted at the same rate as humans.
  • Bots are biased (by construction): Trump-supporting bots, for example, are producing systematically only positive contents in support of their candidate, altering the public perception by giving the impression that there is a grassroot positive and sustained support for that candidate.
  • It remains impossible, to date, to determine who’s behind these bots (the master puppeteers): single individuals, third-party organizations, and even foreign governments may be orchestrating these operations.

To know more, read our paper: Social bots distort the 2016 U.S. Presidential election online discussion

Cite as:

Alessandro Bessi, Emilio Ferrara. Social bots distort the 2016 U.S. Presidential election online discussion. First Monday 21(11), 2016

Press Coverage

  1. How the Bot-y Politic Influenced This Election – MIT Technology Review
  2. Facebook, Twitter & Trump – The New York Review of Books
  3. How Twitter bots played a role in electing Donald Trump – WIRED
  4. How Twitter bots helped Donald Trump win the US presidential election – Arstechnica
  5. On Twitter, No One Knows You Are a Trump Bot – Fast Company
  6. Election 2016 Belongs to the Twitter Bots – VICE
  7. Almost a fifth of election chatter on Twitter comes from bots – Fusion
  8. Study reports that nearly 20% of election-related tweets were ‘algorithmically driven’ – Talking New Media
  9. How Twitter bots affected the US presidential campaign – The Conversation
  10. Advertising is driving social media-fuelled fake news and it is here to stay – The Conversation
  11. 20% of All Election Related Tweets Came From Non-Humans – Futurism
  12. Twitter Bots Dominate 2016 Presidential Election: New Study – Heavy
  13. Tracking The Election With Social Media In Real-Time: How Accurate Is It? – Heavy
  14. BOTS ‘SWAY’ ELECTION Fake tweets by social media robots could swing US Presidential election – The Sun (UK)
  15. A fifth of all US election tweets have come from bots – ABC News
  16. There are 400,000 Bots That Just Tweet Political Views All Day – Investopedia
  17. Real, or not? USC study finds many political tweets come from fake accounts – Science Blog
  18. Software bots distort Donald Trump support on Twitter: Study – ETCIO
  19. How hackers, social bots, data analysts shaped the U.S. election – The Nation
  20. That swarm of political tweets in your feed? Many could be from bots – The Business Journals
  21. Software ‘bots’ distort Trump support on Twitter – New Vision
  22. Bots Invade Twitter, Spreads Misinformation On US Election – EconoTimes
  23. Software ‘bots’ seen skewing support for Trump on Twitter – The Japan Times
  24. US Presidential Elections 2016: Bot-generated fake tweets influencing US election outcome, says new study – Indian Express
  25. US elections 2016: Researchers show how Twitter bots are trying to influence the poll in favour of Trump – International Business Times
  26. Hillary vs Trump: Most of the election chatter online by Twitter bots, says study – Tech 2 First Post
  27. Twitter bots distort Trump support – iAfrica
  28. Social Media ‘Bots’ Working To Influence U.S. Election – CBS San Francisco
  29. Elezioni Usa: il 19% dei tweet elettorali è prodotto da software – Repubblica.it (in Italian)
  30. Almost a fifth of election chatter on Twitter comes from bots – Full Act
  31. Software ‘bots’ distort Trump support on Twitter: study – Yahoo! News
  32. Bots Will Break 2016 US Elections Results – iTechPost
  33. Scientist Worries Robot-Generated Tweets Could Compromise The Presidential Election – Newsroom America
  34. Software ‘bots’ distort Trump support on Twitter: study – Phys.org
  35. Spotlight: Fake tweets endanger integrity of U.S. presidential election – XinhuanNet
  36. New Study: Twitter Bots Amount for One-Fifth of US Election Conversation – Dispatch Weekly
  37. Are Robot generated Tweets compromising US Polls? – TechRadar India
  38. Fake tweets endanger integrity of US presidential election – Global Times
  39. Software ‘bots’ distort Trump support on Twitter: study – The Daily Star
  40. Software ‘bots’ distort Trump support on Twitter: study – News Dog
  41. Malicious Twitter bots could have profound consequences for the election – RawStory
  42. ‘Robot-generated fake tweets influencing US election outcome’ – DNA – Daily News & Analysis
  43. Sophisticated Bot-Generated Tweets Could Influence Outcome of US Presidential Election – Telegiz
  44. UIC Journal Shows ‘Bots’ Sway Political Discourse, Could Impact Election – NewsWise
  45. Bot-generated tweets could threaten integrity of 2016 US presidential election: Study – BGR.in
  46. Robots behind the millions of tweets: “The integrity at danger” – Svenska Dagbladet (in Swedish)
  47. Bot generated tweets influence US Presidential election polls – I4U News
  48. High percentage of robot-generated fake tweets likely to influence public opinion – NewsGram
  49. ‘Robot-generated fake tweets influencing US election outcome’ – Press Trust of India
  50. Robot-generated fake tweets influencing US election outcome: Study – IndianExpress
  51. Fake Tweets, real consequences for the election – Phys.org
  52. Real, or not? USC study finds many political tweets come from fake accounts – USC News
  53. We’re in a digital world filled with lots of social bots – USC News