Twitter is becoming a more influential part of everyday 21st Century life. However, we all need to understand that not all tweets are sent by people.
Recently Pew Internet researchers designed a Twitter study aiming to figure out what portion of tweet traffic comes from bots. Bots are automated programs that tweet or retweet information around the web, but they do so without the help of people.
Bots are not necessarily bad or nefarious. Tweets that announce weather, traffic, remind you of a concert starting time, or warn communities of nearby problems serve a constructive purpose, but they are often sent by bots.
In the study Pew researchers examined 1.2 million tweets sent during the summer of 2017. Their goal was to figure out what percentage of the tweets were shared by bots and learn more about the content of those tweets. To get started the analysts needed to figure out how to follow each tweet to its destination.
Next, they created a massive database. Then, to identify whether or not a tweet was sent by a bot, the researchers used a computer program, called a botometer. The botometer analyzes a wide range of tweet characteristics to determine how it originated and how was sent.
You can learn lots more about the process by watching Pew’s video at the end of this post.
Among their conclusions, the analysts found that two-thirds of tweets with news content are sent by bots and three-quarters of the sports content are sent by bots. Also, the study was not set up to determine whether or not the bots shared truthful information.
Again, there is much more to discover in Pew’s video, especially about how the botometer program works and how the researchers independently a random sample of the botometer’s results.