COVID BOTS GALORE
Almost half of Twitter accounts sharing coronavirus tweets are likely bots, according to Carnegie Mellon University research released Wednesday.
The university’s researchers scoured through more than 200 million tweets talking about coronavirus or COVID-19 since January and concluded nearly 45 percent of the accounts behaved like robots instead of humans, NPR reported. The study found that of the top 50 influential retweeters, 82 percent are likely bots, and of the top 1,000 retweeters, 62 percent are likely bots.
“We’re seeing up to two times as much bot activity as we’d predicted based on previous natural disasters, crises and elections,” Kathleen Carley, a professor in the School for Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon, said in a statement.
The team utilized a bot-hunter tool to find accounts that show signs of being run by a computer by tweeting more than humanly possible or being in multiple countries in a few hours. They also analyzed the account’s followers, frequency of tweeting and how often the user is mentioned on the platform.
More than 100 inaccurate COVID-19 narratives were found, including those about potential cures. Some of the accounts tweet about conspiracy theories, like hospitals being filled with mannequins or the coronavirus spreading through 5G wireless towers, which are both untrue.
But researchers said it was too early to determine what individuals and groups were behind the likely bots, but the tweets seem to instigate division in the U.S.
A Monday blog post from Twitter’s Nick Pickles, Twitter’s global policy strategy and development director, and Yoel Roth, head of site integrity, said users should focus on the “holistic behavior” of an account and “not just whether it’s automated or not.”