Donald Trump’s loudest supporters will tell you that even if their candidate is behind in the polls, he’s still going to win on November 8. They might have gotten that impression from Twitter.
According to a new study flagged by Recode, an army of Twitter bots have been helping spread Trump’s messages. Researchers at Oxford say pro-Trump Twitter bots out-tweeted pro-Hillary Clinton bots by a margin of 7 to 1 during the third and final presidential debate.
“Automated pro-Trump accounts became even more aggressive [than in the previous debates] in the final debate, with highly automated pro-Trump accounts launching into content production hours ahead of, rather than during, the debate,” the report said. “Highly automated pro-Trump accounts out[produced] similar pro-Clinton accounts 7:1 on relevant hashtags.”
But while Twitter bots might clog up users’ timelines, it doesn’t look like they have any real impact beyond spamming and harassment.
Watch Elle Reeve’s VICE News Tonight profile of a man who built a bot to fight pro-Trump racists:
Over the course of the three debates between Trump and Clinton, in which Clinton’s lead over Trump widened greatly, “highly automated pro-Trump bots generated four tweets for every one that highly automated pro-Clinton accounts generated.”
And although the robots grew increasingly frenzied, the research showed that actual people sounded like, well, humans.
“The great rise of Twitter traffic around debate time remained mostly human and contained more of the political-neutral hashtags,” the study concluded.