Katina Michael - Bots Without Borders

Title: Bots without borders: how anonymous accounts hijack political debate

Abstract: A bot (short for robot) performs highly repetitive tasks by automatically gathering or posting information based on a set of algorithms. They can create new content and interact with other users like any human would. But the power is always with the individuals or organisations unleashing the bot. Politicalbots.org reported that approximately 19 million bot accounts were tweeting in support of either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the week before the US presidential election. Pro-Trump bots worked to sway public opinion by secretly taking over pro-Clinton hashtags like #ImWithHer and spreading fake news stories. Bots have not just been used in the US; they have also been used in Australia, the UK, Germany, Syria and China. Whether it is personal attacks meant to cause a chilling effect, spamming attacks on hashtags meant to redirect trending, overinflated follower numbers meant to show political strength, or deliberate social media messaging to perform sweeping surveillance, bots are polluting political discourse on a grand scale.

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Biography: Professor Katina Michael is the Director of the Center for Engineering, Policy and Society in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University. She has a background in telecommunications engineering, and has completed an information technology and national security law degree. She is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions of Technology and Society. In 2017, Katina was awarded the Brian M. O'Connell Distinguished Service Award in the IEEE Society on the Social Implications of Technology.