Trump gets four times more support than Hillary – from bots


“Pay no attention to those wires coming out of my pants!”

❝ More than four times as many tweets were made by automated accounts in favour of Donald Trump around the first US presidential debate as by those backing Hillary Clinton, a study says.

The bots exaggerated support for the Republican, it suggests, but Trump would still have won a higher number of supportive tweets even if they had not.

The authors warn such software has the capacity to “manipulate public opinion” and “muddy political issues”…

❝ The investigation was led by Prof Philip Howard, from the University of Oxford, and is part of a wider project exploring “computational propaganda”.

It covered tweets posted on 26 September, the day of the first debate, plus the three days afterwards, and relied on popular hashtags linked to the event.

❝ First, the researchers identified accounts that exclusively posted messages containing hashtags associated with one candidate but not the other…

The researchers then analysed which of these had been posted by bots. They identified an account as such if it had tweeted at least 50 times a day across the period, meaning a minimum of 200 tweets over the four days…

In total, that represented a total of 576,178 tweets benefiting the Republican nominee and 136,639 in support of the Democratic one…

Nice to see serious examination of how technology has changed opinion-shaping. Now, I’m still waiting for pollsters to identify how often their telephone polls still rely on calling folks with landlines. And other fossils.

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