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Russian bots influence people’s behavior online, CU researchers find

Your Local Election Headquarters

BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — Hundreds of thousands of Twitter users became more negative and mean, after interacting with Russian bot accounts leading up the 2016 presidential election, according to a new study from scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Numerous studies and government intelligence reports have shown Russia used social media to interfere in the 2016 election and is using it again in 2020.

The CU study is the first to look at about 800,000 Twitter accounts that interacted the Russian bots. The study found hundreds of thousands of those accounts changed their tweeting tendencies significantly.

“They increased their mean tweet frequency after being contact by the Russians. The sentiment of the content of their tweets became more negative,” said Richard Han, Ph.D., the study’s coauthor and a professor of computer science at CU Boulder.

The study also found that after the interaction with bot accounts, the tweets also included more references to then-candidates Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Twitter eventually suspended nearly 3,900 accounts — responsible for about 10 million tweets — that it accused of being Russian bots.

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