I'm not a hater of social media. I do, after all, use it myself. But it's sure not the boon to all humanity it was cracked up to be. (online.king.edu).
by Dan Burns
Apr 2, 2021, 10:00 AM

I found a cool website about social media and politics

Lazy you-know-what that I am, I’m generally at least a few months behind in reading Scientific American. Earlier this week I finished the December 2020 issue, which included an article (Maybe paywalled? I was able to access it online, perhaps as a “free view.” I’m a print subscriber) co-authored by a principal of the Indiana University Observatory on Social Media.

In 2017 we estimated that up to 15 percent of active Twitter accounts were bots—and that they had played a key role in the spread of misinformation during the 2016 U.S. election period. Within seconds of a fake news article being posted—such as one claiming the Clinton campaign was involved in occult rituals—it would be tweeted by many bots, and humans, beguiled by the apparent popularity of the content, would retweet it.

Bots also influence us by pretending to represent people from our in-group. A bot only has to follow, like and retweet someone in an online community to quickly infiltrate it. OSoMe researcher Xiaodan Lou developed another model in which some of the agents are bots that infiltrate a social network and share deceptively engaging low-quality content—think of clickbait. One parameter in the model describes the probability that an authentic agent will follow bots—which, for the purposes of this model, we define as agents that generate memes of zero quality and retweet only one another. Our simulations show that these bots can effectively suppress the entire ecosystem’s information quality by infiltrating only a small fraction of the network. Bots can also accelerate the formation of echo chambers by suggesting other inauthentic accounts to be followed, a technique known as creating “follow trains.”
(Scientific American)

Here’s the website. On the tools page is the Botometer, which lets you check Twitter accounts for bot-like behavior. I tried it out on a few things, and it’s righteous.

One little caveat, though. I use Twitter via the account, that I inherited, affiliated with the old MN Progressive Project blog that was lost in a website crash. I mostly use it to retweet, and often from the same sources of which I’m a particular fan. So it actually scored 1.8/5 on the Botometer, which isn’t ideal. But some strongly suspicious accounts that I checked spiked the meter at over 4.

I’m sure Indiana is far from the only university with a program like this. It’s the one I happen to know about.

Thanks for your feedback. If we like what you have to say, it may appear in a future post of reader reactions.