Posts tagged disinfo
Bots and Russian trolls spread misinformation about vaccines on Twitter to sow division and distribute malicious content before and during the American presidential election, according to a new study. Scientists at George Washington University, in Washington DC, made the discovery while trying to improve social media communications for public health workers, researchers said. Instead, they found trolls and bots skewing online debate and upending consensus about vaccine safety. The study discovered several accounts, now known to belong to the same Russian trolls who interfered in the US election, as well as marketing and malware bots, tweeting about vaccines. Russian trolls played both sides, the researchers said, tweeting pro- and anti-vaccine content in a politically charged context. “These trolls seem to be using vaccination as a wedge issue, promoting discord in American society,” Mark Dredze, a team member and professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins, which was also involved in the study, said.
Conclusions. Whereas bots that spread malware and unsolicited content disseminated antivaccine messages, Russian trolls promoted discord. Accounts masquerading as legitimate users create false equivalency, eroding public consensus on vaccination.
So how do we spot these accounts in the wild? Following are a number of traits we’ve found in our research. As you might expect, many accounts that are not bots or sockpuppets exhibit some of these traits. None of them are foolproof. But the more of these traits an account displays, the more likely it is to be a disinformation account. In our research, we’ve found it far more helpful to look for evidence of these traits in a large collection of tweets, rather than trying to come up with discrete lists of bots, sockpuppets, trolls, and regular users. It’s often these traits that are most dangerous, and it’s these traits that we can look out for when engaging information online ― and when sharing information ourselves. It is also worth highlighting that many of the traits exhibited by bots and sockpuppets are pulled directly from tactics used in online harassment.
What is happening online is nothing more than a reflection of what is happening offline in Mexico. “Since the war on drugs began in 2006, we´ve lived through the worst period for freedom of expression”, says Alberto. Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries on earth to be a journalist, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. It is also in the middle of a human rights crisis, stained by the disappearance of almost 30,000 men, women and children over the last decade — most since the current President, Peña Nieto took office in 2012. The violence — and the impunity shrouding it — has energized a new generation of digitally-savvy Mexican activists who want to see accountability for the human rights abuses committed.