While following the 2016 US presidential election, I occasionally checked out Donald Trump’s raucous tweets. After some time, I noticed one account kept coming up again and again:
This guy was in the top replies of pretty much every tweet Trump posted, amassing tons of likes, retweets and probably getting massive conversions in the form of followers.
At first I just felt sorry for such a young looking guy being so obsessed with politics. Maybe it was just me, but when I was his age, which I assumed by his profile picture was in his late teens / early 20s, I wasn’t stuck on Twitter 24/7 waiting for a 70 year old to tweet something.
But after some time I realised it was pretty much impossible for someone to tweet this fast EVERY TIME. I googled to see if anyone else had noticed and found this article.
Inside Donald Trump's Twitter-Bot Fan Club
Given how small the company actually is, it's kind of ridiculous how much power Twitter has come to wield over…
I’m pretty tech savvy, but it didn’t even cross my mind this was a bot. If he fooled me for months, I’m pretty sure I was one of many, many others.
I had also noticed in previous months a massive change in the tone of comments on many sites I frequented, especially around the time of the Brexit vote. I’ll be honest to admit I love reading people’s comments on articles. I remember thinking — ‘Wow, there seems to be so many Brexiters’. In a way, due to this I was kind of expecting the Brexit vote to win, even though a part of me was really hoping I was wrong.
Now I can’t say these were all bots, but I do believe that bots have had a massive echo chamber effect across the internet that has affected substantially the results of both the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US Election. Articles such as the one below seem to point to this.
Did Twitter Bots Influence The Final Brexit Vote?
In the weeks before the Brexit vote, Twitter users in the UK voiced their concerns, opinions, and questions about the…
Obama’s use of social media in 2008 was revolutionary at the time and definitely helped his campaign go the extra mile. It is plausible therefore that this time it may have been Trump followers, and particularly the alt-right, who have found a way to push their agenda using bots.
Bots are still not that sophisticated. I’m not implying they were the only or even main reason Trump and Brexit won. But as they do become more advanced, they could be trained to go to multiple news sites and social networks, post thousands of comments and tweets and even up-vote other similar ones. This can quickly become an issue where it will be extremely hard to differentiate them from real people.
I am so convinced of how much of an impact this will have in the near future that I have a prediction. Regardless of how well Trump does in the next 4 years, the next president of the US will be the one that invests the most money on an automated internet campaign with millions of bots.
People will catch on eventually, and then we’ll probably enter a post-post-truth era, where people won’t trust either politicians or anti-establishment figures, but until then, the power of AI will be the one deciding who gets elected next.