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.

Methods:

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!

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