In a new study by researchers from the University of South Carolina, bots have evolving to better mimic humans during elections. Bots or fake accounts (controlled by artificial intelligence) can copy human behaviours better to avoid detection, establishing an arms race between bots and detection as lead researcher Emilio Ferrara details:
Lead author, Emilio Ferrara, noted, "Our study further corroborates this idea that there is an arms race between bots and detection algorithms. As social media companies put more efforts to mitigate abuse and stifle automated accounts, bots evolve to mimic human strategies. Advancements in AI enable bots producing more human-like content. We need to devote more efforts to understand how bots evolve and how more sophisticated ones can be detected. With the upcoming 2020 US elections, the integrity of social media discourse is of paramount importance to allow a democratic process free of external influences."
Bots, the researchers discovered, were more likely to employ a multi-bot approach as if to mimic authentic human engagement around an idea. Also, during the 2018 elections, as humans were much more likely to try to engage through replies, bots tried to establish voice and add to dialogue and engage through the use of polls, a strategy typical of reputable news agencies and pollsters, possibly aiming at lending legitimacy to these accounts.
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