Many elections officials have highlighted false information as the number one threat to election security. Voters need to consume media responsibly and be aware of their role in information laundering.
Facebook released the below tips on how to spot false news online, in partnership with The News Literacy Project, The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and Stony Brook University School of Journalism.
Bots and botnets have played a large role in spreading misinformation online. Learn more about bots and how to spot them on social media.
A bot is an automated social media account programmed to perform tasks normally associated with human interaction, including:
There are millions of bots on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. According to a 2017 report by researchers from the University of Southern California and Indiana University, between nine and 15 percent of Twitter users are actually bots.
Not all bots are insidious – some are entertaining or helpful, like ones that Tweet out weather conditions or when a new program has been uploaded to an online streaming surface. But fake profiles can be used in malicious activities or be a part of modern, hybrid warfare when it comes to spreading misinformation.
In a 2018 study Indiana University researchers analyzed 14 million messages and 400,000 articles shared on Twitter. They found that bots played a disproportionate role in spreading misinformation online: a mere 6 percent of Twitter accounts that the study identified as bots were enough to spread 31 percent of the "low-credibility" information on the network. These accounts were also responsible for 34 percent of all articles shared from "low-credibility" sources.
Bot accounts often work in tandem, as part of what’s called a botnet, to post the same or similar content. This could be to make a phrase or hashtag trend, to amplify a message or article, or to harass other users.
So how can you identify fake accounts and bots on social media? Some typical characteristics of bots include:
The solution is easy – if you spot a bot, flag and report it. The rest will be taken care of by the social network itself. If you do identify an account as a bot, don’t respond to or interact with its posts. You can also ban or block the account to stop seeing its content.
Since the 2016 election, Facebook and Twitter have taken steps to remove fake accounts and flag false information.
Facebook reported that it removed more than 6.59 billion fake accounts from October 2018 through September 2019. Voters can also search the Facebook Ad Library to see data for all ads about social issues, election and politics.
Twitter has introduced new measures to detect spam and malicious automation, and regularly deletes inactive and fake accounts. Twitter also stopped all political advertising.