Humans and bots

Key Questions:

  • Who creates political bots and why?
  • Who follows political bots and why?
  • What makes some bots “successful”? We define success in terms of political impact and power.
  • Can we identify ethical and democratic political uses of artificial intelligence and/or personal data use?

The gist so far:

Most of the work on political bots so far has focused on computational approaches to identifying bots. There seems to be a divide between the bots for “good” and for “bad.” Good might be something like the @CongressEdits Twitter account which posts a tweet every time someone with a US government IP address makes an anonymous edit to Wikipedia. Bad might be something like bots which flood a certain hashtag with tweets in order to make it harder for activists to connect. But we want to understand the human side. Heather FordCornelius Puschmann and I are starting with those “good” bots and trying to sort out who is interacting with them and to what end.

Fenwick McKelvey and I have also done deep dive into the use of political bots in Canada. We are working on plans for analysis in the 2019 federal election in Canada.


We are combining content analysis of social media posts and news articles with in-depth interviews.

Are you a bot creator or have you interacted with a political bot (e.g. used information a bot provided)? Let us know!