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Saturday, October 13 • 11:00am - 12:30pm
Social Media Bots, Trolls, and Cyborgs Round Table: Implications for Research

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This round table discusses the implications of bots (automated accounts), trolls (human actors aiming to be provocative), and cyborgs (accounts automated part time, operated by humans other times), for social media research. The definitions of these entities are contested, and their impacts are not fully understood. We do know that they drive or are implicated in wide-ranging activities on social media, especially in political conversations. For instance, recent work on the 2016 U.S. Presidential election estimates that roughly 20% of the political discussion on Twitter came from bots (Bessi & Ferrara, 2016) and that bots may have had a structural influence on online political behavior around major candidates (Woolley & Guilbeault, 2017). Bot armies have been deployed to counteract criticism in Mexico during elections (Salge & Karahanna, 2016), and recent news has highlighted the roll of troll farms, many users working together to spread misinformation, in information warfare campaigns (Snider, 2018).

We will start by having each organizer present for five minutes to introduce each of these entities and bring up concrete examples from their own work. The organizers will facilitate discussion around issues such as: 1) how might we identify these actors in datasets; 2) how should we treat these actors when analyzing the social landscape and activity; 3) what are the implications for publishing; and 4) how do researchers keep up with the changing media environment and platform policies related to these actors.

Bessi & Ferrara. (2016). Social bots distort the 2016 US Presidential election online discussion.

Salge, C., & Karahanna, E. (2016). Protesting Corruption on Twitter: is it a Bot or is it a Person? Academy of Management Discoveries.

Snider. (2018, February 16). Robert Mueller investigation: What is a Russian troll farm? USA TODAY.

Woolley & Guilbeault. (2017). Computational Propaganda in the United States of America: Manufacturing Consensus Online. Oxford Internet Institute working Paper.

avatar for Brenda Moon

Brenda Moon

Data Scientist, Queensland University of Technology
Brenda Moon is a research associate at the QUT Digital Media Research Centre, Brisbane, Australia. Her research interests include social media, science communication and data visualisation. http://www.qut.edu.au/research/dmrc

Saturday October 13, 2018 11:00am - 12:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Salon 7