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High Percentage of Robot-generated Fake Tweets likely to Influence Public Opinion before upcoming US Presidential Elections

Researchers have found that robots, rather than people have produced 3.8 million tweets

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US Presidential Candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Wikimedia

Washington, November 5, 2016:  Just before US Election polls, a high percentage of the political discussion was created by software robots or social bots on popular social media site Twitter, that may be influencing public opinion, warned a new study.

According to PTI, researchers from the University of Southern California’s (USC) Viterbi School of Engineering in the US worry that these robot-generated tweets are likely to distort political online discussion as well as there is a possibility that it might impact election outcomes.

[bctt tweet=”Researchers found that Republican candidate Donald Trump’s robot-produced tweets were almost uniformly positive, boosting the candidate’s popularity. ” username=””]

“Software robots masquerading as humans are influencing the political discourse on social media as never before and could threaten the very integrity of the 2016 US presidential election,” said research leader at the USC, Emilio Ferrara.

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Ferrara and Alessandro Bessi, who are visiting research assistants at USC have analysed 20 million election-related tweets created between September 16 and October 21, by leveraging state-of-the art bot detection algorithms, mentioned PTI report.

While delving deep, they found that robots, rather than people have produced 3.8 million tweets, or 19 percent. Social bots also accounted for 400,000 of the 2.8 million individual users, or nearly 15 percent of the population under study.

After analysing, researchers have found that Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s robot-produced tweets were almost uniformly positive, that is boosting the candidate’s popularity.

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On contrary to that, only half of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s bot tweets were positive, with the other half criticising the nominee, mentioned PTI.

It is often impossible to determine who creates these tweets, due to the social bots’ sophistication.

According to the report, political parties, local, national and foreign governments and even single individuals with adequate resources could obtain the operational capabilities and technical tools to deploy armies of social bots and affect the directions of online political conversation, said the researchers.

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The “master puppeteers” behind influence bots, often create fake Twitter and Facebook profiles, they said, mentioned PTI.

“They do so by stealing online pictures, giving them fictitious names, and cloning biographical information from existing accounts,” they added.

“These bots have become so sophisticated that they can tweet, retweet, share content, comment on posts, ‘like’ candidates, grow their social influence by following legit human accounts and even engage in human-like conversations,” researchers further added.

– prepared by NewsGram with inputs from PTI.

Next Story

Twitter Retains Old Messages Even After Being Trashed

As part of its privacy policies, Twitter notes that anyone wanting to leave the service can have their account "deactivated and then deleted" and after a 30-day grace period, the account, along with its data, disappears from the platform.

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As part of its privacy policies, Twitter notes that anyone wanting to leave the service can have their account "deactivated and then deleted" and after a 30-day grace period, the account, along with its data, disappears from the platform. Pixabay

Micro-blogging site Twitter has reportedly been retaining messages shared on its platform including deleted messages along with data shared and received from accounts that have been suspended or deactivated, the media reported.

“Security researcher Karan Saini found years-old messages in a file from a data archive obtained through the website from accounts that were no longer on Twitter,” TechCrunch reported on Saturday.

Earlier Saini claimed to have reported a similar bug, found a year ago that allowed him to use a since-deprecated application programming interface (API) to retrieve direct messages even after a message was deleted from both the sender and the recipient.

Previously, Twitter allowed users to delete messages from the chat itself with the “unsend” feature but now, users are only allowed to remove messages from their own account.

“We are looking into this further to ensure we have considered the entire scope of the issue,” the report quoted a Twitter spokesperson as saying.

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“Security researcher Karan Saini found years-old messages in a file from a data archive obtained through the website from accounts that were no longer on Twitter,” TechCrunch reported on Saturday. 
Pixabay

As part of its privacy policies, Twitter notes that anyone wanting to leave the service can have their account “deactivated and then deleted” and after a 30-day grace period, the account, along with its data, disappears from the platform.

“But, in our tests, we could recover direct messages from years ago – including old messages that had since been lost to suspended or deleted accounts. By downloading your account’s data, it is possible to download all of the data Twitter stores on you,” the report said.

According to the report, Saini believes this is a functional bug rather than a security flaw.

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“We are looking into this further to ensure we have considered the entire scope of the issue,” the report quoted a Twitter spokesperson as saying.
Pixabay

“Saini told TechCrunch that he had concerns that the data was retained by Twitter for so long but argued that the bug allows anyone a clear bypass of Twitter mechanisms to prevent accessed to suspended or deactivated accounts,” the report added.

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This issue could expose users, particularly high-risk accounts like journalists and activists to governments, which could demand for data from years ago.

Asked if Twitter thinks that consent to retain direct messages is withdrawn when a message or account is deleted, Twitter’s spokesperson had “nothing further” to add, the report noted. (IANS)