Observances: Fake News, Bots and Bait

image from Pixibay

Fake news is frequently used to describe a political story which is seen as damaging to an agency, entity, or person… it is by no means restricted to politics, and seems to have currency in terms of general news.” — Merriam-Webster The Real Story of ‘Fake News’

Claiming a site or source is intentionally misleading can be difficult to substantiate. Suggesting the modus-operandi is pursuing financial or political gains, less so. For this case study we’ve observed a network of Bots amplifying news headlines. Specifically our focus is on two sites operating as purveyors of fake news where financial or political gain seem evident

Catching our attention is CitizenSlant (no mast head, no writer attribution, no source citations lend it little credibility) and FakeNewsMatters (name says it all). While labelling them both “fake news” sites we see them primarily operating as click-bait feed filler.

First: CitizenSlant tweets of Bot related activity. In terms of content the overall anti-President Trump theme is evident. There’s also a pattern in terms of volume ranging between 70–115 retweets per post.

Looking at a 200 retweet snapshot we’ve highlighted that the significant majority of retweets are generated by non-human agents. This is Bot amplified content at work.

Each profile highlighted in red indicates Bot-like behaviour/activity and warrant further investigation.
Greeted with an overlay like this (free clicks!), and when closed a redirect process is initiated

Second: FakeNewsMatters presents a very different content “finger-print”. News organization logo’s are very evident and no doubt are an attempt to resonate credibilty. Yet, every connected link with send the unwitting would-be visitor to a highly questionable web-site (we advise you not to visit the site).

Unlike CitizenSlants retweet volume to Bot ratio, this Twitter feed seems more about the volume of content flowing versus amplifying it. We’ve not found an individual tweet that’s achieved double digit retweets.

Here are 100 profiles retweeting FakeNewsMatters and like CitizenSlant, the BotMapp lights-up like a Christmas tree.

These Bots are “broadcasting” in a broader context beyond fake news. It’s more like a numbers game. This network operates by throwing out a mix of salacious headlines (fake news) pornography, pills & therapy (highlighting the reputedly high-anxiety culture), point spreads or ponzi schemes (gambling or investing), or tugs at the heart-strings (charities); sooner or later someone will act and unfortunately give up personal information, fall for a scam, or click on an ad. This is clearly a network of Bots programmed to turn clicks into cash or information currency.

There’s no reason to think these two cases are examples of a Russian plot against Western Democracy. We’ve noted Bot feeds with no political affinity by tweeting content that’s both for and against the 45th President. People have to own the responsibility for today’s polarized politic landscape. Blaming Bots doesn’t cut it.

Yet, we do believe there’s undeniable and warranted concerns about the role non-human agents play in the amplification of misinformation and disinformation. By manipulating social signals and inflating metrics (such as likes, retweets, views, comments or up-votes) and influencing the “push a winning trend” and “jump on the bandwagon” behaviour, maybe Bot’s are in fact “botifying” the unwitting.

This intersection of people, massive communication platforms, psychology, and software automation reveals the good and the bad of our human experience. Disingenuous behaviour and fake news has a long history; “Other thinges are in this Court at a good price, or to say it better, very good cheap: that is to wit, cruel lies, false news, vnhonest women, fayned friendship, continuall enimities, doubled malice, vaine words, and false hopes, of whiche eight things we haue suche abundance in this Courte, that they may set out bouthes, and proclayme faires.”
 — Antonio de Guevara, The Familiar Epistles of Sir Anthony of Gueuara (trans. By Edward Hellowes), 1575

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” ― William Faulkner

Mentionmapp Investigates: See if your social reputation is at risk. Contact: john [at] mentionmapp [dot] com for a Bot investigation and network analytics risk assessment. As Used By -


Data analytic support and insights are courtesy of our partners at Plot+Scatter.

From John’s pen (cofounder).

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