Social media sites have a significant role to play in the outcome of the US presidential election 2016. However, of late many of the discourses and debate on the social media seem predictable and mechanical. The answers are repetitive leading to fears that there is no person in flesh and blood on the other side but a robot. The fears are correct, and it is indeed a bot which is heatedly debating the pros and cons of their respective masters.
In a study which was published on the penultimate day of the US presidential race campaign, it was revealed that the debate on the social media like Twitter was being handled by about 400,000 bots which were tweeting and re-tweeting at a pace which amounted to 20% of all election-related messages.
The bots were numerous and were quite capable of influencing and distorting the online debate as per the researchers who were from University of Southern California Information Sciences Institute.
However what has puzzled many is exactly who are operating these bots. It was impossible to determine the origin of these tweets or the person who is sending these messages on the social media. The study was being conducted for the last one month which includes the periods of the three presidential debates.
The pitfalls with the bots re-tweeting messages are many. Bots are more numerous than humans and can retweet at an incredible pace. It could spread misinformation, rumours, and conspiracy theories and so on. The study reveals that one state Georgia was the biggest contributor for such tweets. The bots were driving most of the conversation in the highly populated states which includes California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and New York.
Experts differ in opinion about how these debates will have an effect on the outcome. However, a risk is low voter turnout.