Down the bot hole: Actionable insights from a one-year analysis of bot activity on Twitter
Keywords:bots; social media manipulation; political bots; twitter; malicious behavior
Social media represent persuasive tools that have been progressively weaponized to affect beliefs, spread manipulative narratives, and sow conflicts along divergent factions. Software-controlled accounts (i.e., bots) are one of the main actors associated with manipulation campaigns, especially in a political context. Uncovering the strategies behind bots’ activities is of paramount importance to detect and curb such campaigns. In this paper, we present a long term (one year) analysis of bots activity on Twitter in the run-up to the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. We identify different classes of accounts based on their nature (human vs. bot) and engagement within the online discussion and we observe that hyperactive bots played a pivotal role in the dissemination of conspiratorial narratives, while dominating the political debate in the year before the election. Our analysis, in advance of the U.S. 2020 presidential election, reveals both alarming findings of human susceptibility to bots and actionable insights that can contribute to curbing coordinated campaigns.
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