Bots are a reality of political discourse. Research suggests the fortunes of Donald Trump in the lead-up to the 2016 election were buoyed in part by Twitter bots promoting him, and the “MacronLeaks” documents aimed at dashing centrist French President Emmanuel Macron’s 2017 election chances were also spread by bots.
New research from Emilio Ferrara, the University of Southern California academic who exposed the role of bots in the 2016 US election, shows that many Trump bots went dark and later turned into MacronLeaks bots. This, Ferrara wrote in a new paper posted to the arXiv preprint server this week (which is currently being peer-reviewed), suggests that there may be a “black market” for right-wing political bots that can lay dormant for months before being activated to promote the next conservative demagogue.
“There are way too many coincidences here to keep us from thinking that there are …