There is so much misinformation about COVID-19 that some of it has already been turned into tropes. A good portion of it thrives on social media soil, but almost half of it is also produced by bots, a new study shows.
According to the Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Informed Democracy & Social Cybersecurity’s research, from 45% to 60% of accounts on Twitter promoting misinformation related to coronavirus is run not by humans, but bots. To conclude this, the center’s experts analyzed nearly 200 million coronavirus-related tweets since January. They weed out the automated accounts by looking for specific markers: multiple posts in a short period, or copy-paste text from other tweets, says the Rolling Stone.
More than 100 common false narratives and conspiracy theories about coronavirus — such as the Chinese government creating it in a laboratory or 5G towers spreading it — were singled out as well. The research team did not identify where these bots were located but said that they accounted for about 82% of the top-50 most influential Tweeter users.
Kathleen Carley, a professor of computer science of Carnegie Mellon University said in the NPR interview that the current bot activity is “up to two times as we’d predicted based on previous natural disasters, crises, and elections.”
Twitter has recently issued a statement claiming that the social media platform axed more than 2,600 tweets related to COVID-19 and handled more than 4.3 million accounts “which were targeting discussions around COVID-19 with spammy or manipulative behaviors.”
However, the statement from Twitter also mentioned that the company’s officials do not believe that all bots were spreading misinformation and that it was more important “to focus on in 2020 is the holistic behavior of an account, not just whether it’s automated or not. That’s why calls for bot labeling don’t capture the problem we’re trying to solve and the errors we could make to real people that need our service to make their voice heard.”
Twitter also said that it will not “take enforcement action on every Tweet that contains incomplete or disputed information about COVID-19.”