The election of President Donald Trump was a very close race in the United States. How close? Hillary Clinton captured the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote based on the distribution of delegates from a few key states.
Another close vote took place in the United Kingdom in June of 2016, five months before the United States presidential election. That vote, nicknamed Brexit, concerned the United Kingdom’s continued participation in the European Union.
But what do these two events have in common besides being close contests?
Both, according to a new study, may have been influenced, to the point of deciding the outcome, by Russian Twitter bots.
Bots, as outlined previously, are designed to disseminate information automatically. Some are benign, providing inspirational quotes daily. Others? Not so friendly it seems.
Automated tweeting played a small but potentially decisive role in both Trump’s presidential victory and the Brexit vote reports the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Their rough calculations suggest bots added 3.23 percentage points of the actual vote for Trump in the U.S. presidential race.
“Our results suggest that, given narrow margins of victories in each vote, bots’ effect was likely marginal but possibly large enough to affect the outcomes,” according to NBER members and study authors Yuriy Gorodnichenko from the University of California at Berkeley and Tho Pham and Oleksandr Talavera from Swansea University in the U.K.