Political bots

Project on Algorithms, Computational Propaganda, and Digital Politics

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Call for Papers: Special Issue on Computational Propaganda and Political Big Data

We are pleased to announce a special issue of the journal Big Data dedicated to computational propaganda. This special issue is guest edited by project members Professor Phil Howard and Gillian Bolsover. The deadline for submission is 1 June, 2017 for publication in December 2017. Computational propaganda—the use of information technologies for political purposes—is on…

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Social Media, Civic Engagement, and the Slactivism Hypothesis: Lessons from Mexico’s “El Bronco

Does social media use have a positive or negative impact on civic engagement? The cynical “slacktivism hypothesis” holds that if citizens use social media for political conversation, those conversations will be fleeting and vapid. Most attempts to answer this question involve public opinion data from the United States, so we offer an examination o f…

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IJOC: Automation, Big Data and Politics: A Research Review

We review the great variety of critical scholarship on algorithms, automation, and big data in areas of contemporary life both to document where there has been robust scholarship and to contribute to existing scholarship by identifying gaps in our research agenda. We identify five domains with opportunities for further scholarship: (a) China, (b) international interference…

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When Bots Tweet: Toward a Normative Framework for Bots on Social Networking Sites

Political actors are using algorithms and automation to sway public opinion, notably through the use of “bot” accounts on social networking sites. This article considers the responsibility of social networking sites and other platforms to respect human rights, such as freedom of expression and privacy. It then proposes a set of standards for chat bots…

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Growing Bot Security: An Ecological View of Bot Agency

Political actors are now deploying software programs called social bots that use social networking services such as Facebook or Twitter to communicate with users and manipulate their behavior, creating profound issues for Internet security. Current approaches in bot control continue to fail because social media platforms supply communication resources that allow bots to escape detection…

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Auditing for Transparency in Content Personalization Systems

Do we have a right to transparency when we use content personalization systems? Building on prior work in discrimination detection in data mining, I propose algorithm auditing as a compatible ethical duty for providers of content personalization systems to maintain the transparency of political discourse. I explore barriers to auditing that reveal the practical limitations…

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When the Algorithm Itself is a Racist: Diagnosing Ethical Harm in the Basic Components of Software

Computer algorithms organize and select information across a wide range of applications and industries, from search results to social media. Abuses of power by Internet platforms have led to calls for algorithm transparency and regulation. Algorithms have a particularly problematic history of processing information about race. Yet some analysts have warned that foundational computer algorithms…

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Bots and Political Influence: A Sociotechnical Investigation of Social Network Capital

This study explains how bots interact with human users and influence conversational networks on Twitter. We analyze a high-stakes political environment, the UK general election of May 2015, asking human volunteers to tweet from purpose-made Twitter accounts—half of which had bots attached—during three events: the last Prime Minister’s Question Time before Parliament was dissolved (#PMQs),…

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Where Do Bots Come From? An Analysis of Bot Codes Shared on GitHub

An increasing amount of open source code is available on the Internet for quickly setting up and deploying bots on Twitter. This development of open-source Twitter bots signals the emergence of new political economies that redistribute agencies around technological actors, empowering both the writers of the bots and users who deploy a bot based on…

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IJOC: Talking to Bots: Symbiotic Agency and the Case of Tay

In 2016, Microsoft launched Tay, an experimental artificial intelligence chat bot. Learning from interactions with Twitter users, Tay was shut down after one day because of its obscene and inflammatory tweets. This article uses the case of Tay to re-examine theories of agency. How did users view the personality and actions of an artificial intelligence…

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