Researchers at George Mason University have found bots and Russian trolls spread misinformation about vaccines on Twitter during the U.S. election. But what exactly is a bot?
Cybersecurity expert Tomas Hult, professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University, says people may assume that it means Twitter or Facebook is doing something. It's possible they even assume it is an actual robot sending messages.
But, he says, the term bot means human actors are actually using automated tools to manipulate the online conversation and drive trends away from or toward an idea they value. Holt says this presents a massive threat to the safety of the online environment and the ways the public understands and value ideas. At the same time, bots artificially shape what trends and what seems important in our primary outlets for news online.
Tom Holt Professor of Criminal Justice
Thomas J. Holt is an expert in Cybercrime, Cyberterror, and Information Warfare Researcher