Twitter bots may have swayed some voters in the Brexit vote and the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to a new study.
“Overall, our results suggest that the aggressive use of Twitter bots, coupled with the fragmentation of social media and the role of sentiment, could contribute to the vote outcomes,” wrote the authors of the paper, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and the United Kingdom's Swansea University.
The researchers wrote that bots can help exacerbate ideological echo chambers that already happen on social media. Accordingly, bots were most effective when they reinforced a person’s existing beliefs.
“These two campaigns and subsequent debates about the role of bots in shaping the campaigns raise a number of questions about whether policymakers should consider mechanisms to prevent abuse of bots in the future,” the authors wrote.
Previous studies have found that Twitter became a hotbed for "junk news" stories around the time of the election.