The Turing test asked whether one could recognize the behavior of a human from that of a computer algorithm. Today this question has suddenly become very relevant in the context of social media, where text constraints limit the expressive power of humans, and real incentives abound to develop human-mimicking software agents called social bots. These elusive entities wildly populate social media ecosystems, often going unnoticed among the population of real people. Bots can be benign or harmful, aiming at persuading, smearing, or deceiving. Here we discuss the characteristics of modern, sophisticated social bots, and how their presence can endanger online ecosystems and our society. We then discuss current efforts aimed at detection of social bots in Twitter. Characteristics related to content, network, sentiment, and temporal patterns of activity are imitated by bots but at the same time can help discriminate synthetic behaviors from human ones, yielding signatures of engineered social tampering.
The Rise of Social Bots
Emilio Ferrara, Onur Varol, Clayton Davis, Filippo Menczer, Alessandro Flammini