Bots behind majority of links shared on Twitter

A new study from the Pew Research Center has found that most link-sharing tweets were posted by bot accounts.


NSFW    WASHINGTON — News of Russian-linked Twitter bots retweeting Trump during the 2016 election called into question just how much of social media is being manipulated by non-human actors.

But while a new study confirms the pervasiveness of automated accounts on the Twitterverse, it also finds there's less political bias there than most of us think.

According to CNET, bots are applications that execute automated tasks. This can refer to applications like Alexa or Siri, or programs with more malicious intentions, like viruses.

On Twitter, bots are software-controlled accounts capable of tweeting or retweeting without direct human input.

A recent Pew Research Center study that analyzed 1.2 million tweeted links found that only one third were sent by humans. The rest were posted by suspected bots.

The study found that 66% of tweeted links to sites covering news were shared by bots, compared to 90% for adult sites, 76% for sports, and 73% for commercial products.

Interestingly, the bots' link-sharing behavior wasn't slanted toward a specific political stance. The number of links to sites shared by liberals was roughly the same as to those shared by conservatives.

It's worth noting that the researchers didn't assess the accuracy of material being shared, or distinguish between good and bad bots — which means it's still unclear how useful or problematic Twitter bots actually are.
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