The Computational Propaganda Project

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

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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IJOC: Keeping Ottawa Honest—One Tweet at a Time? Politicians, Journalists, Wikipedians and Their Twitter Bots

WikiEdits bots are a class of Twitter bot that announce edits made by Wikipedia users editing under government IP addresses, with the goal of making government editing activities more transparent. This article examines the characteristics and impact of transparency bots, bots that make visible the edits of institutionally affiliated individuals by reporting them on Twitter….

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IJOC: Political Communication, Computational Propaganda, and Autonomous Agents — Introduction

The Internet certainly disrupted our understanding of what communication can be, who does it, how, and to what effect. What constitutes the Internet has always been an evolving suite of technologies and a dynamic set of social norms, rules, and patterns of use. But the shape and character of digital communications are shifting again—the browser…

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