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A new report suggests that almost half of the tweets regarding the coronavirus are probably from bots

Everything is truly terrible.

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Image: KnowTechie

Most of us are aware that bots plague social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. They push conspiracy theories, socially-dividing issues, and a lot more, but now a new study from Carnegie Mellon University dives into just how big of a factor they can be in regards to COVID-19 and those that want to “reopen America.”

Starting in January of this year, CMU has collected over 200 million tweets regarding the coronavirus and COVID-19 to determine if these tweets are coming from real people or if they are being pushed by large bot networks meant to sow division amongst real users.

From the study, approximately 45% of the tweets surrounding the coronavirus and stay-at-home orders were from accounts that act more like bots than humans. In fact, from the study, “Of the top 50 influential retweeters, 82% are bots” with the top 1,000 consisting of approximately 620 bots (62%).

According to Kathleen Carley, a professor in the School of Computer Science’s Institute for Software Research, “We’re seeing up to two times as much bot activity as we’d predicted based on previous natural disasters, crises and elections.”

Carley chalks up this increase to a variety of factors. For one, more people currently have time to create their own bots to push agendas, but more importantly, this pandemic is global, meaning that more groups have reason to push political agendas.

CMU looked at a variety of factors to determine if an account was a bot or not. This included unusual tweet frequency, tweets originating from various countries from the same account, tweets that matched other accounts, and more.

The university was hesitant to lay blame on a particular country or group of people, but does note that the bot behavior matches that of what is found in “Russian and Chinese playbooks.”

What do you think? Surprised that bots make up as many tweets as they do? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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