Pro-Putin bots are dominating Russian political talk on Twitter

To Inform is to Influence

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to the media after his annual televised call-in show in Moscow on Thursday. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

 June 20

MOSCOW — Bots airing pro-Kremlin views have flooded the Russian-language portion of the social media platform Twitter, in what researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute say is an effort to scuttle political discussion and opposition coordination in Russia.

In a new study of “political bots” on the social media platform, the sheer scale of automation is staggering: Of a sample 1.3 million accounts tweeting regularly about politics in Russia reviewed by researchers between 2014 and 2015, around 45 percent, or 585,000 of them, were bots.

So if you were to mention or enter a flame war with a random account from that sample, there would be a nearly 1-in-2 chance you’re not communicating with a real person.

The study, released on Monday by the 

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