Bots Used as Propaganda Tools are Widespread in Some Countries, Oxford University Study Finds

A new study from Oxford University researchers found that bots are widely used as propaganda tools in countries such as Russia, Brazil and Taiwan.

Bots are software that are meant to perform simple, repetitive, robotic tasks. Bots inhabit the social media world using automated identities, doing mundane tasks such as collecting information, communicating with people and systems, and delivering news and information.

“Whatever their uses, they are able to rapidly deploy messages, interact with other users’ content, and effect trending algorithms – all while passing

as human users,” Oxford University researchers said in the study called “Computational Propaganda Worldwide”.

The computation propaganda study by Oxford University researchers found that bots are responsible for 45% of the Twitter conversation in Russia. The study also found that bots played a role in these three major political events in Brazil: 2014 presidential elections, impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff and the 2016 municipal elections in Rio de Janeiro.

The study further found that when bots and human trolls work together on social media platforms, they become the most powerful propaganda tool. Oxford University researchers found that China’s propaganda on Taiwan’s social media platforms used a combination of bots and human trolls.

“Computational propaganda [algorithms, automation and human curation] is now one of the most powerful tools against democracy,” the Oxford University researchers said. “Social media firms may not be creating this nasty content, but they are the platform for it. They need to significantly redesign themselves if democracy is going to survive social media.”

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