Breaking

How Russian bots appear in your timeline

Latest news

    US Senate Select Committee on IntelligenceImage copyright Getty Images
    Image caption US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence displayed examples of Russian bot posts

    Prime Minister Theresa May has accused Russia of “planting fake stories” online as part of a “campaign of cyber-espionage and disruption“.

    Her comments come after prominent social media accounts were exposed as Russian bots.

    At the start of November, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence provided a list of 2,753 suspended, Russian-linked Twitter accounts.

    But who is behind these bots and how do they operate?

    Many bot accounts have been traced to the Internet Research Agency, in St Petersburg. The Russian government-backed agency reportedly runs social media accounts disseminating “disinformation”.

    This “troll farm” was exposed by a whistleblower in the New York Times in 2015. A BBC investigation has also uncovered a pro-Russia “troll factory” in Ukraine.

    The Oxford Internet Institute – part of the University of Oxford and recipients of the Democracy award for its analysis of propaganda – says bots “significantly impact [on]public life during important policy debates, elections, and political crises” and “flourished during the 2016 US presidential election”.

    Bot-spotting tips

    The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRL) offers social-media users tips for spotting a bot:

    • Frequency: Bots are prolific posters. The more frequently they post, the more caution should be shown. The DFRL classifies 72 posts a day as suspicious, and more than 144 per day as highly suspicious.
    • Anonymity: Bots often lack any personal information. The accounts often have generic profile pictures and political slogans as “bios”.
    • Amplification: A bot’s timeline will often consist of re-tweets and verbatim quotes, with few posts containing original wording.
    • Common content: Networks of bots can be identified if multiple profiles tweet the same content almost simultaneously.

    The Digital Forensic Research Lab’s full list of tips can be found here.

    There has been a move away from fully automated bots to semi-automated accounts.

    Such accounts are harder to identify, as they intersperse their activity with references to popular culture and personalised replies.

    @SouthLoneStar

    After the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack in March 2017, Twitter user @SouthLoneStar – who described themselves as “Proud TEXAN and AMERICAN patriot” – posted an image of a young woman in a headscarf on the bridge in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

    Image copyright REX/Shutterstock
    Image caption @SouthLoneStar shared this image

    The user captioned the photograph: “Muslim woman pays no mind to the terror attack, casually walks by a dying man while checking phone #PrayForLondon #Westminster #BanIslam”.

    The tweet attracted a lot of attention at the time and was widely shared, prompting many inflammatory comments.

    Although the account had more than 16,500 followers on Twitter, it was suspended after being identified as a Russian bot.

    The unnamed woman in the photograph released a statement through the organisation Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks).

    “I’m shocked and totally dismayed at how a picture of me is being circulated on social media,” she said.

    “Not only have I been devastated by witnessing the aftermath of a shocking and numbing terror attack, I’ve also had to deal with the shock of finding my picture plastered all over social media by those who could not look beyond my attire, who draw conclusions based on hate and xenophobia.”

    @TEN_GOP

    Image copyright Twitter/@TEN_GOP

    The Twitter user @TEN_GOP posted a digitally altered image of “moderate Muslims” reacting to the news of the London Bridge attack on a Facebook Live stream from the Al Jazeera news network.

    The BBC debunked the fake image shortly after it surfaced, and the account – which had more than 136,000 followers – was suspended by Twitter in August.

    The account was not affiliated to the official Tennessee Republican Party and this week the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence confirmed @TEN_GOP was a Kremlin-linked bot.

    Image copyright @TEN_GOP/Twitter

    @DavidJoBrexit

    Image copyright @DavidJoBrexit/Twitter

    While not confirmed, there are accusations @DavidJoBrexit is a Russian bot posting pro-Brexit and anti-immigration content to its more than 100,000 followers.

    The Times reported the account was a “Russian stooge”, citing the activity of the account and analysis by Twitter user @conspirator0.

    @DavidJoBrexit account was set up on 27 January 2013 – over 1,750 days ago. As such, this account has posted, on average, more than 80 times a day.

    The account Tweeted any accusations it was a bot were “completely defamatory”, adding: “I am not pro-Kremlin at all, I am just a Brexit supporter.”

    View the original article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41982569

    The account was set to private following the Times article.

    In the same category are

    Meghan and Harry go head-to-head in netball shootout Image copyright Reuters/AFP Image caption The Duke and Duchess of Sussex laughed their way through the netball shootout Dancer Ginger Rogers famou...
    Ben Stokes: Andrew Flintoff says England all-rounder ‘not the same’ since trial Stokes has played 46 Test matches for England and has been named in the squad for the tour of Sri Lanka next monthEngland all-rounder Ben Stokes is "...
    Brexit: Flights ‘at risk’ under no-deal, government warns Image copyright Reuters British and European Union airlines would lose the automatic right to fly into each other's territories if there is no Brexi...
    Brexit: Pet travel warning in no-deal planning papers Image copyright Getty Images Pet owners who want to take their animals to the EU face having to make plans at least four months in advance if there ...
    Seven foot snake falls from attic hatch at Nuneaton home Image copyright Nuneaton and Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary Image caption The boa constrictor is being cared for by Geoff Grewcock at a local wild...
    Watch as 7-year-old Malea Emma stuns MLS crowd with national anthem Watch as seven-year-old Malea Emma stuns the crowd with her rendition of the American national anthem before the LA Galaxy's 3-0 win over Seattle Soun...

    Leave a comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.