Red Bots Do It Better: Comparative Analysis of Social Bot Partisan Behavior

Luca Luceri, Ashok Deb, Adam Badawy, Emilio Ferrara

Recent research brought awareness of the issue of bots on social media and the significant risks of mass manipulation of public opinion in the context of political discussion. In this work, we leverage Twitter to study the discourse during the 2018 US midterm elections and analyze social bot activity and interactions with humans. We collected 2.6 million tweets for 42 days around the election day from nearly 1 million users. We use the collected tweets to answer three research questions: (i) Do social bots lean and behave according to a political ideology? (ii) Can we observe different strategies among liberal and conservative bots? (iii) How effective are bot strategies? We show that social bots can be accurately classified according to their political leaning and behave accordingly. Conservative bots share most of the topics of discussion with their human counterparts, while liberal bots show less overlap and a more inflammatory attitude. We studied bot interactions with humans and observed different strategies. Finally, we measured bots embeddedness in the social network and the effectiveness of their activities. Results show that conservative bots are more deeply embedded in the social network and more effective than liberal bots at exerting influence on humans.

Knowledge Graph

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