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Twitter Bots and Information Cascade

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/twitter-bots-fake-news-2016-election

In the article “How Twitter bots get people to spread fake news”, the author describes how some posts on twitter are shared by twitter bots so that the content “appear popular enough that human users would trust it and share it more widely”. These bots will promote low-credability posts by giving the “first big push”, after that human users see that XXX people have shared that post, then they will likely take it as real. Another strategy the bots use is especially targeting people with lots of followers so once their target is convinced to share, all his followers will see.

However, the funny part is, without these bots, some seemingly incredible stories wouldn’t be true. So the prescence of bots is a double sided blade. On one hand it may spread false rumors or “fake news” by manipulating the number of shares. On the other hand it may also validate truths with low credability. Therefore these bots are still around right now.

This twitter bot example can relate to the information cascade we studied in class. If the third user sees both the first user and the second user has chose to do an action, then he will likely do the action as well, thus forming an information cascade for all upcomming users to do the action. In the twitter example all the users see is a (seemingly) “popular” post, therefore when they are convinced that the post is true, they will probably retweet. This is a information cascade started by bots, which does not represent the societies’ true opions on things. Which is why it can be referred as “fake news” sometimes.

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