From Russia, with hashtags? How social bots dilute online speech
Hashtags have become the digital scaffolding around which social movements coalesce. The emergence of “decoy” hashtags threatens to dilute this newest method of activist organization.
By Eoin O'Carroll Staff write
The Christian Science Monitor
July 18, 2018
IF YOU SEARCH TWITTER for the hashtag #FamiliesBelongTogether (a tag created by activists opposing the forcible separation of migrant children from their parents) you might be in for a pop proofreading quiz. That’s because, in some locations in the United States, the top trending term, the one that Twitter automatically predicts as you type it, contains a small typo, like #FamiliesBelongTogther.
This is not an accident, say data scientists, but the result of a deliberate, automated misinformation campaign. The misspelled hashtags are decoys, aimed at diffusing the reach of the original by breaking the conversation into smaller groups.
These decoys can dilute certain voices and distort public perception of beliefs and values. . . .
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