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Twitter bots can promote good behaviour, not just fake news

Information is likely to become viral when people are exposed to same information multiple times through multiple sources

IANS  |  New York 

Twitter

earned a bad reputation for their alleged role in the 2016 US presidential election but researchers have found that automated tweets can also help promote good behaviour such as getting the flu shot among the network's users.

In a large-scale experiment designed to analyse the spread of on networks, the researchers deployed a of algorithm-driven Twitter accounts, or bots, programmed to spread positive messages on Twitter.

"We found that bots can be used to run interventions on media that trigger or foster good behaviour," said Emilio Ferrara, Research Assistant Professor at in the US.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, also revealed another intriguing pattern — is much more likely to become viral when people are exposed to the same piece of multiple times through multiple sources.

"This milestone shatters a long-held belief that ideas spread like an infectious disease, or contagion, with each exposure resulting in the same probability of infection," Ferrara said.

"Now we have seen empirically that when you are exposed to a given piece of multiple times, your chances of adopting this increase every time," Ferrara added.

To reach these conclusions, the researchers first developed a dozen positive hashtags, ranging from health tips to fun activities, such as encouraging users to get the flu shot and high-five a stranger.

Then, they designed a of 39 bots to deploy these hashtags in a synchronised manner to 25,000 real followers during a four-month period.

Each bot automatically recorded when a target user retweeted intervention-related content and also each exposure that had taken place prior to retweeting. Several hashtags received more than one hundred retweets and likes, Ferrara said.

"We also saw that every exposure increased the probability of adoption — there is a cumulative reinforcement effect," Ferrara said.

"It seems there are some cognitive mechanisms that reinforce your likelihood to believe in or adopt a piece of when it is validated by multiple sources in your network," he said.

The researchers believe that this discovery could also improve how positive intervention strategies are deployed on networks in many scenarios, including public health announcements for disease control or emergency management in the wake of a crisis.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, September 23 2017. 17:10 IST
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