The omnipresent COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to a parallel spreading of misinformation, also referred to as an ‘Infodemic’. Consequently, social media have become targets for the application of social bots, that is, algorithms that mimic human behaviour. Their ability to exert influence on social media can be exploited by amplifying misinformation, rumours, or conspiracy theories which might be harmful to society and the mastery of the pandemic. By applying social bot detection and content analysis techniques, this study aims to determine the extent to which social bots interfere with COVID19 discussions on Twitter. A total of 78 presumptive bots were detected within a sample of 542,345 users. The analysis revealed that bot-like users who disseminate misinformation, at the same time, intersperse news from renowned sources. The findings of this research provide implications for improved bot detection and managing potential threats through social bots during ongoing and future crises.
Marx, Julian; Brünker, Felix; Mirbabaie, Milad; and Hochstrate, Eric, "‘Conspiracy Machines’ - The Role of Social Bots during the COVID-19 ‘Infodemic’" (2020). ACIS 2020 Proceedings. 82.