We are still hearing about Russian involvement in the 2016 election cycle… It’s February of 2018. The investigation into the bots, trolls, and alleged involvement of Russian operatives in US election cycle manipulation has just come to it’s (first) conclusion indicting Russian nationals. A long discussed and disputed investigation into what exactly happened in the 2016 election cycle has led us here, to 13 nationals being the first to be blamed by the US.

During the election cycle, it seems to have now been proven that foreign bots and trolls were scouring the internet spreading false news stories, such as “Pope Supports Trump” and other false titles. These stories were circling the internet at rapid speed through heightened interaction by bots, paid advertisement on Facebook, Twitter and other media sites, as well as real user involvement on social media continuing the spread of the false information. Many researchers believe that these false rumors and heightened spread of false information is detrimental to the reliability of many news sources and social media sites.

So what exactly are Bots and Trolls? According to Dictionary.com, a Bot is an “online device or piece of software that can execute commands, reply to messages, or perform routine tasks, such as online searches, either automatically or with minimal human intervention”. Where as trolls are people who post “inflammatory or inappropriate messages or comments online for the purpose of upsetting other users and provoking a response”. Unfortunately, it is not a perfect science identifying bots and trolls online and even harder to accomplish when the user is not looking specifically for them.

Currently in 2018, with enhanced algorithms on social media platforms bringing posts with heightened interaction to the top of public profiles, the posts that are interacted with by bots and trolls are brought to the forefront of user attention, spreading the message even farther outward. It’s a vicious cycle that will continue to be found in the 2016 election cycle investigation, as well as many areas.

For more information about bots, trolls and other social media problems, register for Making Social Media Matter Workshop in Boston, MA June 2018! Professionals from the industry, as well as researchers, will be presenting interesting data and research  about the creation of bots and their impact on social media culture. Visit http://sites.bu.edu/social-media-analysis/ for more information.

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