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Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag

11.01.2018 | Publication

Social bots - the potential opinion makers

What influence can social bots have on political opinion formation? What is technically feasible today? How can social bots be identified and should they be prevented? Policy brief TAB-Fokus no. 16 is now available in English.

Social bots are computer programmes developed to automatically generate messages like comments, answers or statements in social networks, e.g. Facebook or Twitter, in order to influence or manipulate discourses.

The objective of the horizon scanning study was to work out an overview of the current state of the art of social bots (capabilities of the applied algorithms), fields of application and users, propagation as well as actual and presumed risks. Moreover, the current state of knowledge regarding the actual extent of using social bots and their impact should be presented. The study focused on the issue of potential dangers of social bots resulting from a possible manipulation of political discussions and tendencies in social networks or from the influence of social bots on people’s buying behaviour.

The TAB-Fokus no. 16, which is now available in English, features the key findings of the horizon scanning study, which was prepared from October 2016 to April 2017. The German version of the results TAB-Horizon-Scanning Nr. 3 and TAB-Fokus Nr. 16, were published in September 2017.

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