Last updated on May 25, 2020
The other half are also pretty dangerous…
“A lot of disinformation is done through innuendo or done through illogical statements, and those are hard to discover,”
“Because [the pandemic is] global, it’s being used by various countries and interest groups as an opportunity to meet political agendas,”
- There’s been a surge in bot activity in the past month in online discussions about reopening America from COVID-19 shutdowns, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University said this week.
- The researchers analyzed over 200 million tweets discussing COVID-19 and found that roughly half the accounts were likely bots.
- They identified the bots by looking for accounts that tweeted more frequently than humanly possible or whose location appeared to rapidly switch among different countries.
- It’s unclear who’s behind the surge in bot activity or whether they’re originating from the US or abroad.
President Donald Trump on Friday commanded America's governors to immediately reopen churches and other places of worship shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic, threatening to "override" the state leaders if they refused to follow https://t.co/kDT3NnDvVT pic.twitter.com/XsJDPS4Dxr— Dailian247 (@dailian247) May 23, 2020
There has been a huge upswell of Twitter bot activity since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, amplifying medical disinformation and the push to reopen America.
But in a new study, the researchers have found that bots may account for between 45 and 60% of Twitter accounts discussing covid-19. Many of those accounts were created in February and have since been spreading and amplifying misinformation, including false medical advice, conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus, and pushes to end stay-at-home orders and reopen America.
But it’s not just the volume of accounts that worries Carley, the center’s director. Their patterns of behavior have grown more sophisticated, too. Bots are now often more deeply networked with other accounts, making it easier for them to disseminate their messages widely. They also engage in more strategies to target at-risk groups like immigrants and minorities and help real accounts engaged in hate speech to form online groups.
Through the analysis, they identified more than 100 types of inaccurate covid-19 stories and found that not only were bots gaining traction and accumulating followers, but they accounted for 82% of the top 50 and 62% of the top 1,000 influential retweeters. The influence of each account was calculated to reflect the number of followers it reached as well as the number of followers its followers reached.
The researchers have begun to analyze Facebook, Reddit, and YouTube to understand how disinformation spreads between platforms. The work is still in the early stages, but it’s already revealed some unexpected patterns. For one, the researchers have found that many disinformation stories come from regular websites or blogs before being picked up on different social platforms and amplified. Different types of stories also have different provenance patterns. Those claiming that the virus is a bioweapon, for example, mostly come from so-called “black news” sites, fake news pages designed to spread disinformation that are often run outside the US. In contrast, the “reopen America” rhetoric mostly comes from blogs and Facebook pages run in the US.
If grocery stores can be open because they're essential to feeding our bodies, churches should be open because they're essential to feeding our souls. Since our founding, churches have played a critical role in preserving the fabric of this nation. https://t.co/8kkVduYNBH— Kay C. James (@KayColesJames) May 22, 2020
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