In a recent study it was found that it took ‘relatively few’ twitter bots to spread enough misinformation to overwhelm fact checkers. “Bots amplify the reach of low-credibility content, to the point that it is statistically indistinguishable from that of fact-checking articles,” some researchers wrote. This highlights how even a sizable platform can be manipulated by bots and malicious users.
The study, which was conducted by Indiana University found that only 6% of Twitter accounts which have been identified as bots were responsible for 31% of the “low-credibility” content. This study came after Twitter moved to crackdown on fake accounts after they found that a Russia-based influence campaign was able to spread a considerable amount of misinformation during the 2016 US election. Twitter also removed tens of millions of account in 2018 in response.
The study analyzed 14 million tweets that linked to more than 400,000 articles from May 2016 until the end of March 2017. Of those articles, 389,569 were from “low credibility sources” that had been repeatedly flagged by fact-checking organizations for containing misinformation, as well as 15,053 articles that originated from “fact-checking sources.”
In this climate of easily spread misinformation it is important to ensure that all web users are aware and alert while browsing the web or social media. This also ties into general online security awareness as many users can be used as part of these campaigns after their data has been compromised.