Twitter Bots Are Multiplying to Target the Swedish Election

(Bloomberg) -- Twitter bots are multiplying to ramp up support for the nationalist Sweden Democrats ahead of next month’s election, according to the Swedish Defense Research Agency.

The number of Twitter accounts discussing Swedish politics showing “automated behavior” more than doubled this month, a study of 600,000 tweets during March to August from 45,000 accounts showed. During the entire period almost 17 percent of the content came from suspected bots, before many were suspended by Twitter.

According to the report, the suspected bots were 40 percent more likely to express support for the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats than the genuine accounts. The ruling Social Democrats, poised to post their worst result in a century, were the most heavily criticized in the tweets from the automated accounts.

“Hopefully this study will contribute to a greater awareness of the potential effect bots have so that more citizens can make decisions without being influenced by them,” Johan Fernquist, the leader of the study said in a statement.

Most of the accounts suspended by Twitter were accounts expressing ”traditional, authoritarian or nationalistic views,” linking primarily to material on Sweden Democrat-friendly anti-immigrant sites, according to the agency.

The FOI report hasn’t done any analysis on who might be behind the bots.

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