Twitter bots play little to no role in shaping the vaccine discourse among Twitter users in the United States, according to a study published by researchers from the University of Sydney.
Less than 4% of anti-vaccine misinformation that is exposed to Twitter users come from bots, with the remainder coming from human-to-human interactions, the study found.
The study examined the Twitter activity of over 53,000 randomly selected users based in the United States and monitored their interactions with vaccine-related tweets from 2017 to 2019. These users were distributed across the United States with the most common user locations being California, New York, and Texas, which accounted for 12.3%, 9.2%, and 9.1% of the selected Twitter users, respectively.
Combing through 20 million vaccine-related tweets, the researchers found that for most users, exposure to anti-vaccine content was relatively infrequent and exposure to bots that posted such content was even more infrequent. During the study’s two-year period, a typical user, on average, was exposed to 757 vaccine-related tweets, of which 27 included vaccine-critical content, and none were from bots.
Meanwhile, the results indicated that 36.7% of users posted or retweeted vaccine content. By comparison, only 4.5% of users retweeted an anti-vaccine tweet, with only 2.1% of users retweeting such content from a bot.
The key difference between this study and what has been done in the past, University of Sydney researcher Adam Dunn told ZDNet, is that it measures what people are looking at rather than just counting up what Twitter users are posting.
Other studies, like one performed by Carnegie Mellon University earlier this year, which found that almost half of the 200 million tweets posted about coronavirus from January to June were from bots, only focused on the amount of content created by bots.
Rather than counting the