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Eric Stoller/JISC

A new study from The University of Southern California and Indiana University finds that up to 15% of active Twitter accounts are bots with built-in retweet and mention strategies that target specific groups. With 319 million monthly active users, that equates to roughly 48 million active bot accounts on Twitter, more than the population of California.

While the study highlights the malicious applications of bots, like spurring fake grassroots political support, It's important to note that not all bots are bad, and many help to shape user experience. A Twitter spokesman tells CNBC that some bots in the study's calculation "are extremely beneficial, like those that automatically alert people of natural disasters…or from customer service points of view."

Why it matters: One could argue that the prevalence of bots calls into question the validity of Twitter's monthly active user base, which has basically plateaued over the last year, despite the prolific use of the platform by the President. But bot traffic is not unique to Twitter, as Facebook and Google's "good bots" make up 8% of all internet traffic. The real concern is whether audience measurement companies should take bots into consideration as part of user traffic numbers, which affect advertising potential, if their behaviors mimic that of real human users.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
22 mins ago - Technology

CES was largely irrelevant this year

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Forced online by the pandemic and overshadowed by the attack on the Capitol, the 2021 edition of CES was mostly an afterthought as media's attention focused elsewhere.

Why it matters: The consumer electronics trade show is the cornerstone event for the Consumer Technology Association and Las Vegas has been the traditional early-January gathering place for the tech industry.

The FBI is tracing a digital trail to Capitol rioters

Illustration: Sarah Grillo

Capitol rioters, eager to share proof of their efforts with other extremists online, have so far left a digital footprint of at least 140,000 images that is making it easier for federal law enforcement officials to capture and arrest them.

The big picture: Law enforcement's use of digital tracing isn't new, and has long been at the center of fierce battles over privacy and civil liberties. The Capitol siege is opening a fresh front in that debate.

Off the Rails

Episode 6: Last stand in Georgia

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer, Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 6: Georgia had not backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 and Donald Trump's defeat in this Deep South stronghold, and his reaction to that loss, would help cost Republicans the U.S. Senate as well. Georgia was Trump's last stand.

On Air Force One, President Trump was in a mood. He had been clear he did not want to return to Georgia, and yet somehow he'd been conscripted into another rally on the night of Jan. 4.