The influence of software robots on politics

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Simon Hegelich, political scientist and bot hunter. (Photo: TUM)

Simon Hegelich, political scientist and bot hunter. (Photo: TUM)

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They can even be found in the US presidential race: software robots - or bots, for short - place vast amounts of messages on social networks without being distinguishable from real users. Creators of bots use them as a tool to influence political sentiment. Prof. Simon Hegelich from the Bavarian School of Public Policy at TUM tracks down social bots and investigates their impact. He recently revealed some of his insights in a report of DW (Deutsche Welle).


Social bots create the impression of being a genuine person by hiding behind attractive profile pictures, posting and tweeting everyday messages, and commenting on music and sports. In between, they disseminate political propaganda.

When entire networks of bots are at work, they have the capacity to manipulate trends in social networks and influence sentiments. This gives them a vast potential for influencing political opinion and concrete political elections.

Simon Hegelich, Professor of Political Data Science, has exposed several social bot networks which aim to influence politics, for instance in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. He sees democracy at risk.

Simon Hegelich on TV:


DW, How Social Bots Can Shape Opinion , 07/16/2016

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