On the internet bots have already overrun humans..What do they want?


According to a new study conducted by the Pew Research Center, “bots” account for more activity on Twitter than humans:

  • 66% of all tweets that share links to popular websites and articles are shared by “bots” — accounts that are not associated with a real human user.
  • The most active 500 Twitter bots are responsible for 22% off all tweeted links, making them four times as prolific as their nearest human counterparts (the 500 most prolific humans on Twitter only account for 6% of shares).

While both of these findings suggest that bots have already overrun humans on Twitter, a subset of Pew’s findings suggests a potential goal: bots account for 89% of the links shared to news aggregator websites.

Why does this matter? News aggregator websites — such as Google News and other apps — use algorithms to determine what articles to show you, from what sources and in what order. It’s likely that the incredible amount of bot activity on Twitter is designed to manipulate these algorithms. If you can manipulate what’s shared, you can manipulate what people see. The way these algorithms work is often propriety (see The Guardian’s 2013 analysis of how Google News’ algorithm determines what sources/articles are more relevant and reliable).  Yet, it appears that the overwhelming majority of the sharing, which likely informs these algorithms, is controlled by bots — not real individuals.

News aggregators are not the only websites using algorithms. Facebook uses an algorithm to determine what to show users on their Newsfeed. Twitter also uses an algorithm to determine what people see on their Timeline. Even search results on Google may be impacted by sharing activity on social media websites like Twitter (although Google has denied that it gives any special preference to social media as a ranking signal, saying that Google’s algorithm looks at social media just as they look at links on any other website). Even if you don’t have a Twitter or Facebook account, what you see on the internet — what news stories “go viral” and rise to the top — are very likely to be affected by link-sharing bots.

What do the bots want? It is hard to say. Many assume that the primary goal of bot-driven sharing is part of political propaganda efforts. During the 2016 presidential election, one study suggested that a third of pro-Trump tweets and a fifth of pro-Clinton tweets were generated by bots. However, Pew’s recent analysis did not confirm any ideological bias in the sharing activity of bots. Instead, Pew found that bots share more links to ideologically mixed and centrist news sites (versus sites with a conservative or liberal bent).

This does not necessarily mean that bot-sharing has no political agenda. Foreign governments, such as Russia, can promote certain messages and narratives (true or fake) in order to sow chaosand discord in the United States. For example, after Friday’s joint missile strikes on Syria by the U.S., the U.K. and France, the Pentagon reported that it saw a 2,000 percent increase in activity by Russian “trolls.” A 2017 study by human rights group Freedom House concluded that 30 foreign governments are now using online propaganda tools, like bots, to manipulate and distort information online.

Even if bots share true news stories, the prolific sharing power of bots (as compared to human users) is a serious risk to the integrity of the internet. With this power, bots can make certain news narratives look more popular and pressing, while simultaneously crowding-out and suppressing others. With a two-thirds majority of activity on Twitter, the bots may be the ones who get to decide: see this, not that.


they want everything..

“bots can make certain news narratives look more popular and pressing, while simultaneously crowding-out and suppressing others. With a two-thirds majority of activity on Twitter, the bots may be the ones who get to decide: see this, not that.”


~ by seeker401 on June 6, 2018.

6 Responses to “On the internet bots have already overrun humans..What do they want?”

  1. Senator Mark Warner Internet


    Senate Democrats Are Circulating Plans for Government Takeover of the Internet: Reason Roundup
    July 31, 2018

  2. Don’t they work for us? So they don’t want anything but we do.

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