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Bots, Russian Trolls Influenced Vaccine Discussion on Twitter

By George Washington ­niversity

August 29, 2018

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Social media bots and Russian trolls spread discord and misinformation about vaccines on Twitter, according to a study led by George Washington University (GWU) researchers.

The researchers analyzed thousands of Tweets sent between July 2014 and September 2017 and uncovered accounts, and marketing and malware bots, that skewed online health communications. Those Twitter accounts are now known to be controlled by the same Russian trolls who meddled in the 2016 U.S. election.

GWU's David Broniatowski says, "Many anti-vaccine Tweets come from accounts whose provenance is unclear. These might be bots, human users, or 'cyborgs'—hacked accounts that are sometimes taken over by bots."

The researchers cite one category of bot accounts—"content polluters" that distribute malware, unsolicited commercial content, and disruptive materials—that shared anti-vaccination messages 75% more frequently than average Twitter users.

From George Washington University
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Abstracts Copyright © 2018 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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