Nearly Half Of The Twitter Accounts Discussing ‘Reopening America’ May Be Bots
CMU Researchers Say Sophisticated, Orchestrated Bot Campaigns Aim To Sow Divide
More than 100 types of inaccurate COVID-19 stories have been identified, such as those about potential cures. But bots are also dominating conversations about ending stay-at-home orders and “reopening America.”
Many factors of the online discussions about “reopening America” suggest that bot activity is orchestrated. One indicator is the large number of bots, many of which are accounts that were recently created. Accounts that are possibly humans with bot assistants generate 66% of the tweets. Accounts that are definitely bots generate 34% of the tweets.
“When we see a whole bunch of tweets at the same time or back to back, it’s like they’re timed,” Carley said. “We also look for use of the same exact hashtag, or messaging that appears to be copied and pasted from one bot to the next.”
A subset of tweets about “reopening America” reference conspiracy theories, such as hospitals being filled with mannequins or the coronavirus being linked to 5G towers.
“Conspiracy theories increase polarization in groups. It’s what many misinformation campaigns aim to do,” Carley said. “People have real concerns about health and the economy, and people are preying on that to create divides.”
Carley said that spreading conspiracy theories leads to more extreme opinions, which can in turn lead to more extreme behavior and less rational thinking.
“Increased polarization will have a variety of real-world consequences, and play out in things like voting behavior and hostility towards ethnic groups,” Carley said.