Conference Paper: “Understanding Bots for Policy and Research: Challenges, Methods, and Solutions”
The following paper by researchers at Oxford and the U. of Pennsylvania will be presented at the ICA (International Communication Association) 2018 conference in Prague.
Understanding Bots for Policy and Research: Challenges, Methods, and Solutions
University of Oxford
University of Pennsylvania
Amidst widespread reports of digital influence operations during major elections, policymakers, scholars, and journalists have become increasingly interested in the political impact of social media ‘bots.’ Most recently, platform companies like Facebook and Twitter have been summoned to testify about bots as part of investigations into digitally-enabled foreign manipulation during the 2016 US Presidential election. Facing mounting pressure from both the public and from legislators, these companies have been instructed to crack down on apparently malicious bot accounts. But as this article demonstrates, since the earliest writings on bots in the 1990s, there has been substantial confusion as to exactly what a ‘bot’ is and what exactly a bot does. We argue that multiple forms of ambiguity are responsible for much of the complexity underlying contemporary bot-related policy, and that before successful policy interventions can be formulated, a more comprehensive understanding of bots — especially how they are defined and measured — will be needed.
In this article, we provide a history and typology of different types of bots, provide clear guidelines to better categorize political automation and unpack the impact that it can have on contemporary technology policy, and outline the main challenges and ambiguities that will face both researchers and legislators concerned with bots in the future.
Direct to Full Text Paper (29 pages; PDF)
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.