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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.

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Support for U.S. President Donald Trump Increases Slightly among Republicans

Trump, who is seeking re-election next year, has lost support, however, with Democrats and independents

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US, President, Donald Trump
President Donald Trump listens during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, July 16, 2019, in Washington. VOA

Support for U.S. President Donald Trump increased slightly among Republicans after he lashed out on Twitter over the weekend in a racially charged attack on four minority Democratic congresswomen, a Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll shows.

The national survey, conducted on Monday and Tuesday after Trump told the lawmakers they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” showed his net approval among members of his Republican Party rose by 5 percentage points to 72%, compared with a similar poll that ran last week.

Trump, who is seeking re-election next year, has lost support, however, with Democrats and independents since the Sunday tweetstorm.

Among independents, about three out of 10 said they approved of Trump, down from four out of 10 a week ago. His net approval – the percentage who approve minus the percentage who disapprove – dropped by 2 points among Democrats in the poll.

US, President, Donald Trump
President Donald Trump portrays Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., left, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., 2nd left, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY., 3rd left, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., right, as foreign-born troublemakers. VOA

Trump’s overall approval remained unchanged over the past week. According to the poll, 41% of the U.S. public said they approved of his performance in office, while 55% disapproved.

The results showed strong Republican backing for Trump as the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a symbolic resolution on Tuesday, largely along party lines, to condemn him for “racist comments” against the four Democratic lawmakers.

All four U.S. representatives – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – are U.S. citizens.

Three were born in the United States.

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The public response to Trump’s statements appeared to be a little better for him than in 2017, after the president said there were “very fine people” on both sides of a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In that instance, Trump’s net approval dropped by about 10 points a week after the Charlottesville rally.

This time, while Democrats and some independents may see clear signs of racial intolerance woven throughout Trump’s tweets, Republicans are hearing a different message, said Vincent Hutchings, a political science and African-American studies professor at the University of Michigan.

“To Republicans, Trump is simply saying: ‘Hey, if you don’t like America, you can leave,” Hutchings said. “That is not at all controversial. If you already support Trump, then it’s very easy to interpret his comments that way.”

US, President, Donald Trump
The national survey, conducted on Monday and Tuesday after Trump told the lawmakers they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Pixabay

By criticizing liberal members of the House, Trump is “doing exactly what Republicans want him to do,” Hutchings said. “He’s taking on groups that they oppose.”

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The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English and gathered responses from 1,113 adults, including 478 Democrats and 406 Republicans in the United States. It has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 3 percentage points for the entire group and 5 points for Democrats or Republicans. (VOA)