Bots Increase Exposure to Negative and Inflammatory Content in Online Social Systems

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115 (49) 12435-12440. 2018

6 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2019

See all articles by Massimo Stella

Massimo Stella

Fondazione Bruno Kessler

Emilio Ferrara

University of Southern California - Information Sciences Institute

Manlio De Domenico

Fondazione Bruno Kessler

Date Written: December 4, 2018

Abstract

Societies are complex systems, which tend to polarize into subgroups of individuals with dramatically opposite perspectives. This phenomenon is reflected — and often amplified — in online social networks, where, however, humans are no longer the only players and coexist alongside with social bots — that is, software-controlled accounts. Analyzing large-scale social data collected during the Catalan referendum for independence on October 1, 2017, consisting of nearly 4 millions Twitter posts generated by almost 1 million users, we identify the two polarized groups of Independentists and Constitutionalists and quantify the structural and emotional roles played by social bots. We show that bots act from peripheral areas of the social system to target influential humans of both groups, bombarding Independentists with violent contents, increasing their exposure to negative and inflammatory narratives, and exacerbating social conflict online. Our findings stress the importance of developing countermeasures to unmask these forms of automated social manipulation.

Suggested Citation

Stella, Massimo and Ferrara, Emilio and De Domenico, Manlio, Bots Increase Exposure to Negative and Inflammatory Content in Online Social Systems (December 4, 2018). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115 (49) 12435-12440. 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3324601

Massimo Stella

Fondazione Bruno Kessler ( email )

Via Sommarive 18
Povo
Trento, 38123
Italy

Emilio Ferrara (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Information Sciences Institute ( email )

United States

HOME PAGE: http://emilio.ferrara.name

Manlio De Domenico

Fondazione Bruno Kessler ( email )

Via Sommarive 18
Povo
Trento, 38123
Italy

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
4
Abstract Views
34
PlumX Metrics