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Study: Nearly half of Twitter accounts discussing 'Reopening America' might be bots

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University also found that of the top 50 most influential COVID-19 re-tweeters, 82% are believed to be bots.
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FILE - This June 19, 2017 file photo shows a person working on a laptop in North Andover, Mass. Many now are working and studying from home to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, one that's testing how productive people can be in a pandemic.

WASHINGTON — A study from Carnegie Mellon University has found that a lot of the conversation on social media surrounding lifting coronavirus restrictions has been fueled by bots. 

CMU researchers analyzed more than 200 million tweets that discussed coronavirus or COVID-19 since January and found that almost half of the accounts discussing "reopening America" might be bots. 

Some of the factors that revealed what is a bot account include tweeting more than humanly possible and appearing in one country then in another a few hours later. 

"We're seeing up to two times as much bot activity as we'd predicted based on previous natural disasters, crises and elections," said Kathleen Carley, a professor in the School of Computer Science’s Institute for Software Research

The researchers found that of the top 50 most influential COVID-19 re-tweeters, 82% are bots.

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The CMU team added that they can't specifically say who may be running the misinformation campaigns and there isn't enough info yet to develop a counter measure. 

So what can the average user do to protect themselves from being influenced by a bot? Carley says some indications of a bot can include sharing links with subtle typos, many tweets coming out very quickly, or a user name and profile image that don’t seem to match up.

"Even if someone appears to be from your community, if you don't know them personally, take a closer look, and always go to authoritative or trusted sources for information," Carley said. "Just be very vigilant."

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