Scientists racked their brains for years and concluded that massive number of tweets are generated by bots. The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan American fact tank based in Washington, recently published a report that stated two-third of tweeted links are posted by automated accounts or ‘bots’, not humans. Bots are the major source for spreading information on news, sports, entertainment, and other trending topics. The initial reason for the invention of bots was to save humans from repetitive and monotonous work. However, today’s bots are much more evolved and disseminating trending tweets and information.
According to The Pew Research Center, 66 percent of the tweeted links to popular websites are generated by bots. In addition, 90 percent of such bot-generated tweets are linked to adult sites and 76 percent to sport sites. These findings proved the extent to which bots play a prominent role in social media and their control over it. The researchers used the tool Botometer, developed by scientists at the Indiana University and the University of Southern California, to differentiate which twitter accounts are operated by bots. They analyzed more than two thousand popular sites and over one million tweets sharing to them in the period of last six weeks. However, the study does not conclude whether the bots are “good” or “bad” in any way.
Aaron Smith, the associate director of research at Pew, explained, “The understanding that bots are operated according to niche phenomenon is not true at all. They share a large portion of tweeted links to most prominent publications and online outlets. As massive amount of information is shared by bots, and it is vital to sense the overall prevalence of bots on social media.”
Researchers gave several examples regarding bot’s impact on Twitter including bot of Netflix that tweets when new shows become available for live streaming. CNN operates “breaking news” bot that continuously feeds trending news and New York Times’ bot provides live analysis of NFL games. Such bots can be used to alter political opinions, spread misinformation, manipulate online ratings, and spreading “fake news”.
As social media have an important position in the world of quick information and online news channels, they possess an uncontrollable weapon of misleading information or “fake news”. Furthermore, to deal with fake news generated by bots, social media turned toward artificial intelligence for help. Furthermore, some hackers took the matter in their hands and started hunting down bots. However, this bot-hunting program is strictly a volunteer work and done by part-time hackers who refuse to see robot-influenced social media. In addition, to fight such automated accounts, Twitter has updated several rules and regulations recently.
The new policy allows bots to broadcast helpful information or run creative campaign that autoreplies to users. However, it forbids them to post about trending topics and influence people by spreading opinions on trending news. It also bans them to use more than one account to generate feeds and tweets. However, such changes in rules are not enough to keep bots at bay. Therefore, we need to take some effective action against bots or a day will come when there will robots tweeting other robots, and we will just sit at a table watching how bots are ruling social media which was created for us.