The role of bots in spreading conspiracies: Case study of discourse about earthquakes on Twitter
International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction (Elsevier)
Number of pages
In this paper, authors identified seven most widely spread conspiracy discourses about earthquakes. These conspiracy discourses link earthquakes to military activities like secret nuclear bomb testing, God's Providence like the punishment of humans for their sins, space activities like aliens visiting our planet, the US secret weather control program HAARP, tests of the Large Hadron Collider, fracking projects, and freemasonic plots. Following the major earthquake in Indonesia at the end of November 2022, the researchers extracted data from Twitter by keywords using the Hoaxy tool for tracking the spread of information on Twitter.
Applying the Bot Sentinel tool, they also got data on the sentiment of the users. The divine and military discourses dominated the conspiracy discussion, followed by the discussions about extraction and HAARP. Though there were more human-like accounts than bot-like accounts, we found a positive correlation between the frequency of tweets on the conspiracy discourses and the bot scores of the accounts, which suggests that bot-like accounts were tweeting more than human-like accounts. It was also found that normal accounts tweeted more than toxic accounts, and there was a positive relationship between the bot score and the toxicity level of an account. It suggests that bot-like accounts were involved more in disruptive activities than human-like accounts.