Credit: Mark Makela/Getty Images

In the past month, protestors have taken to the streets and social media to voice their opinions on America’s lockdown order amid the pandemic. For many, they are considered Trump supporters. Or in some cases, they are just people who live pay check to pay check and without work, it is almost impossible to put food on the table. The US has undoubtedly been hit hardest by COVID-19 and at the time of publishing, 1.7 million people have been infected by the disease and just under 100,000 of those have died. Yet, the protests continue.

But according to a new study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University researchers, it has been suggested that Twitter protest accounts come from at least half of bots. In the newly-published report, the study found that 62 percent of the 1,000 most influential retweeters were in fact computerised, auto accounts – not real people.

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This phenomenon of digitalised, fake propaganda was best seen in the 2016 US presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. According to Business Insider, bot interaction during elections and natural disasters normally sits around 10 to 20 percent.

“We’re seeing up to two times as much bot activity as we’d predicted based on previous natural disasters, crises and elections,” said Kathleen Carley, a professor in the School of Computer Science’s Institute for Software Research and director of the Centre for Computational Analysis of Social and Organisational Systems (CASOS) and Centre for Informed Democracy & Social – Cybersecurity (IDeaS.)

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To detect these bot accounts, artificial intelligence analyses the frequency of tweets, number of followers, and apparent location and if this changes suddenly, it is almost always a bot. From tweets that referenced , “reopening America”, 66 percent were said to have come from accounts that had possibly used bots to spread their tweets and 34 percent of tweets were from bots.

In recent times, Facebook has updated its security measures to ensure that this propaganda – particularly with conspiracy theories and fake news – is not shared by bots. Should this be implemented in the same ways by Twitter?

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Stay tuned for any further developments

thoughts?