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First Evidence That Social Bots Play a Major Role in Spreading Fake News

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Diffusion network for the article titled Spirit cooking: Clinton campaign chairman practices bizarre occult ritual," published by the conspiracy site four days before the 2016 U.S. election.

Researchers at Indiana University Bloomington have systematically studied how fake news spreads on Twitter, and developed clear strategies for controlling this epidemic.

Credit: Technology Review

Researchers at Indiana University Bloomington say they have proof that social bots are the key to the online proliferation of fake news.

The team tracked about 400,000 claims from websites that routinely publish fake news, and examined their spread through Twitter.

In addition, they monitored about 15,000 stories from fact-checking groups and more than 1 million Twitter posts mentioning them.

The Twitter accounts that spread this news were analyzed, and the researchers devised the Hoaxy platform to track fake news claims, and the Bolometer to determine whether the Twitter accounts were run by persons or bots.

The team says bot-run accounts are more likely to actively spread misinformation, especially just after publication. Furthermore, such programs are designed to target tweets at influential users with highly connected nodes.

"These results suggest that curbing social bots may be an effective strategy for mitigating the spread of online misinformation," the researchers say.

From Technology Review
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