Bots

Series / Misinformation Age

Human actors are changing the spread of disinformation

Illustration of man screaming "Fake News"
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Disinformation campaigns used to consist of trolls and bots orchestrated and manipulated to produce a desired result. Increasingly, though, these campaigns are able to find willing human participants to amplify their messages and even generate new ones on their own.

The big picture: It's as if they're switching from employees to volunteers — and from participants who are in on the game to those who actually believe the disinformational payload they're delivering.

Most-shared links during debate were pro-Trump tweets pushed by bots

Democratic candidates on the debate stage. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images.

More than 1,000 accounts across several different social media platforms with suspicious, bot-like characteristics helped push quote tweets, a tweet that is retweeted but additional text is added, from Donald Trump campaign accounts during the third primary debate, according to an analysis provided to Axios by social media intelligence company Storyful. Those tweets accounted for the top 3 most-shared links across several social media platforms, including Facebook, Reddit, etc., during the debate.

Why it matters: Despite attempts by social media companies to weed out malicious behavior online, automated accounts are still driving a large part of the social conversation around political events.