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Article

Bots as Active News Promoters: A Digital Analysis of COVID-19 Tweets

1
School of Communication, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6, Canada
2
Data Scientist, Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto, ON M5J 2W7, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Information 2020, 11(10), 461; https://doi.org/10.3390/info11100461
Received: 3 September 2020 / Revised: 19 September 2020 / Accepted: 24 September 2020 / Published: 27 September 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Information and Communications Technology)
In this study, we examined the activities of automated social media accounts or bots that tweet or retweet referencing #COVID-19 and #COVID19. From a total sample of over 50 million tweets, we used a mixed method to extract more than 185,000 messages posted by 127 bots. Our findings show that the majority of these bots tweet, retweet and mention mainstream media outlets, promote health protection and telemedicine, and disseminate breaking news on the number of casualties and deaths caused by COVID-19. We argue that some of these bots are motivated by financial incentives, while other bots actively support the survivalist movement by emphasizing the need to prepare for the pandemic and learn survival skills. We only found a few bots that showed some suspicious activity probably due to the fact that our dataset was limited to two hashtags often used by official health bodies and academic communities. View Full-Text
Keywords: bots; COVID-19; Twitter; social media; health communication bots; COVID-19; Twitter; social media; health communication
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MDPI and ACS Style

Al-Rawi, A.; Shukla, V. Bots as Active News Promoters: A Digital Analysis of COVID-19 Tweets. Information 2020, 11, 461. https://doi.org/10.3390/info11100461

AMA Style

Al-Rawi A, Shukla V. Bots as Active News Promoters: A Digital Analysis of COVID-19 Tweets. Information. 2020; 11(10):461. https://doi.org/10.3390/info11100461

Chicago/Turabian Style

Al-Rawi, Ahmed, and Vishal Shukla. 2020. "Bots as Active News Promoters: A Digital Analysis of COVID-19 Tweets" Information 11, no. 10: 461. https://doi.org/10.3390/info11100461

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