Bots, #StrongerIn, and #Brexit: Computational Propaganda during the UK-EU Referendum
Bots are social media accounts that automate interaction with other users, and they are active on the StrongerIn-Brexit conversation happening over Twitter. These automated scripts generate content through these platforms and then interact with people. Political bots are automated accounts that are particularly active on public policy issues, elections, and political crises. In this preliminary study on the use of political bots during the UK referendum on EU membership, we analyze the tweeting patterns for both human users and bots. We find that political bots have a small but strategic role in the referendum conversations: (1) the family of hashtags associated with the argument for leaving the EU dominates, (2) different perspectives on the issue utilize different levels of automation, and (3) less than 1 percent of sampled accounts generate almost a third of all the messages.
This project report, done with Bence Kollanyi, is posted to SSRN and arxiv.org: Howard, Philip N., and Bence Kollanyi. 2016. “Bots, #Strongerin, and #Brexit: Computational Propaganda during the UK-EU Referendum.” Working Paper 2016.1. Oxford, UK: Project on Computational Propaganda. www.politicalbots.org. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2798311.