By Lisa Cannon Green
Don’t trust everything you see on Twitter. Chances are a robot—not a human—shared it there, a new study by Pew Research concludes.
Pew’s complex analysis found two-thirds of tweeted links to popular websites appear to come from automated “bots.”
While bots can be helpful in providing automatic news updates or answering questions, Pew notes, they can also be used to manipulate and spread misinformation.
“The results illustrate the pervasive role that automated accounts play in disseminating links to a wide range of prominent websites on Twitter,” Pew writes.
Bots don’t appear to have a political bias, Pew says—they share news from conservative and liberal websites at approximately equal rates.
But they also don’t appear to distinguish between true news and fake news, a separate study from Science magazine found. According to that study, software bots spread true news and false news at the same rate.
A few automated accounts identify themselves as bots, but most don’t, Pew says.
So it’s up to the reader to beware.
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LISA CANNON GREEN (@lisacgreen) is senior editor of Facts & Trends.