Header

UZH-Logo

Maintenance Infos

Social bots in election campaigns: theoretical, empirical, and methodological implications


Keller, Tobias R.; Klinger, Ulrike (2019). Social bots in election campaigns: theoretical, empirical, and methodological implications. Political Communication, 36(1):171-189.

Abstract

Social bots mimic and potentially manipulate humans and their behaviours in social networks. The public sphere might be especially vulnerable to their impacts, which is why we first discuss their potential influence on the public sphere from a theoretical perspective. From an empirical perspective, we analyzed Twitter followers of seven German parties before (N = 638,674) and during (N = 838,026) the 2017 electoral campaigns regarding bot prevalence and activities. The results revealed that the share of social bots increased from 7.1% before to 9.9% during the election campaigns. The percentage of active social bots remained roughly the same. An analysis of the content distributed by both the most popular and the most active bots showed that they disseminate few political hashtags, and that almost none referred to German politics. We discuss the results against the background of normative traditions of public sphere theories and address the methodological challenges bots pose in political communication.

Abstract

Social bots mimic and potentially manipulate humans and their behaviours in social networks. The public sphere might be especially vulnerable to their impacts, which is why we first discuss their potential influence on the public sphere from a theoretical perspective. From an empirical perspective, we analyzed Twitter followers of seven German parties before (N = 638,674) and during (N = 838,026) the 2017 electoral campaigns regarding bot prevalence and activities. The results revealed that the share of social bots increased from 7.1% before to 9.9% during the election campaigns. The percentage of active social bots remained roughly the same. An analysis of the content distributed by both the most popular and the most active bots showed that they disseminate few political hashtags, and that almost none referred to German politics. We discuss the results against the background of normative traditions of public sphere theories and address the methodological challenges bots pose in political communication.

Statistics

Citations

Altmetrics

Downloads

104 downloads since deposited on 05 Dec 2018
104 downloads since 12 months
Detailed statistics

Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Communication and Media Research
Dewey Decimal Classification:700 Arts
Uncontrolled Keywords:Sociology and political science, communication, social bots, elections, Twitter, public sphere, Germany
Language:English
Date:2 January 2019
Deposited On:05 Dec 2018 14:09
Last Modified:28 Apr 2019 07:18
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:1058-4609
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/10584609.2018.1526238

Download

Download PDF  'Social bots in election campaigns: theoretical, empirical, and methodological implications'.
Preview
Content: Accepted Version
Filetype: PDF
Size: 303kB
View at publisher