What are social media bots

Social bots

Social bots or Social networking bots (from English Robot) are programs that simulate human behavior patterns in social networks and appear as (false) accounts. They are based on certain algorithms. Social bots are developed to simulate a human presence on the web and thus dazzle other users. The bots are usually intended for a specific purpose, be it PR work, marketing or, increasingly, political propaganda.

In order to convince real people of their supposedly just as real existence as humans, social bots usually use simple algorithms. They search for previously defined keywords on Twitter or in the Facebook newsfeed and respond to the relevant posts with programmed answers.

Furthermore, messages from the social bots are sent at typical times of day of human interaction and mostly in random time cycles in order to conceal their automated character.

Social bots are particularly common on Twitter, as the brevity and low complexity of the tweets suit their possibilities. Once social bots receive a confirmation of a friend request - e.g. on Facebook - they can also read in and collect the data of these contacts. This is why they are so well suited for marketing and propaganda purposes. The bots can also be used for political purposes. The use, e.g. in election campaigns, is mostly viewed critically. If a large number of bots propagate an opinion, real users cannot distinguish them from real opinions and may thus be influenced. But most of the voices do not see the bots as a great political threat. If other media have previously been able to turn the opinion of the population 180 degrees, bots cannot do that either.

Even simple language skills are sufficient for some purposes of a social bot to react to claims or similar in social networks. The bots are increasingly being programmed better, which is why recognition will not be easier in the future. A critical view is appropriate. Also because these programs are extremely effective at spreading opinions or news. This technological progress can be instrumentalized for better or for worse and is often referred to as unethical.