Researcher Emilio Ferrara talks about the rise of fake news and botnets


Emilio Ferrara has been thinking about botnets for over a decade. As the first social networks climbed out of the mire, he noticed that they were very easy to game. Now, it seems, all of those early tools have finally been weaponized.

I spoke to Ferrara about his research work as well as his fascinating study that found that Twitter bots can be used for good. In this episode of Technopia we discuss the rise of botnets and how they can be turned against those who would use them for harm.

“We found that bots can be used to run interventions on social media that trigger or foster good behaviors,” said Ferrara. “This milestone shatters a long-held belief that ideas spread like an infectious disease, or contagion, with each exposure resulting in the same probability of infection. Now we have seen empirically that when you are exposed to a given piece of information multiple times, your chances of adopting this information increase every time.”

Technotopia is a podcast about a better future by John Biggs. You can subscribe in Stitcher or iTunes and download the MP3 here.

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