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Bots and political influence: a sociotechnical investigation of social network capital

Murthy, Dhiraj, Powell, Alison B., Tinati, Ramine, Anstead, Nick, Carr, Les, Halford, Susan and Weal, Mark (2016) Bots and political influence: a sociotechnical investigation of social network capital International Journal of Communication, 10, pp. 4952-4971.

Record type: Article


This study explains how bots interact with human users and influence conversational networks on Twitter. We analyze a high-stakes political environment, the UK general election of May 2015, asking human volunteers to tweet from purpose-made Twitter accounts—half of which had bots attached—during three events: the last Prime Minister’s Question Time before Parliament was dissolved (#PMQs), the first leadership interviews of the campaign (#BattleForNumber10), and the BBC Question Time broadcast of the same evening (#BBCQT). Based on previous work, our expectation was that our intervention would make a significant difference to the evolving network, but we found that the bots we used had very little effect on the conversation network at all. There are economic, social, and temporal factors that impact how a user of bots can influence political conversations. Future research needs to account for these forms of capital when assessing the impact of bots on political discussions.

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Accepted/In Press date: 9 August 2016
Published date: 13 October 2016
Organisations: Web & Internet Science, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology


Local EPrints ID: 401577
ISSN: 1932-8036
PURE UUID: 72c6e60e-3eb3-46c9-88e9-52b3a7e4758f
ORCID for Les Carr: ORCID iD
ORCID for Mark Weal: ORCID iD

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Date deposited: 18 Oct 2016 13:51
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 18:00

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Author: Dhiraj Murthy
Author: Alison B. Powell
Author: Ramine Tinati
Author: Nick Anstead
Author: Les Carr ORCID iD
Author: Susan Halford
Author: Mark Weal ORCID iD

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