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Can We Trust What We See on X During US Election Season?

US election season

A recent study by the Israeli technology firm Cyabra has revealed a significant number of fake social media accounts on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, indicates that fake accounts are being used to influence public opinion ahead of the U.S. presidential election.


Over two months starting March 1, Cyabra analyzed X posts related to the election, focusing on popular hashtags and the sentiment of the posts—whether they were positive, negative, or neutral. Their findings show that 15% of the accounts supporting former President Donald Trump and criticizing President Joe Biden were fake. Conversely, 7% of the accounts endorsing Biden and opposing Trump were identified as inauthentic.


The study highlights a significant uptick in these fake accounts during March and April, with some types experiencing a tenfold increase. Specifically, Cyabra identified 12,391 fake profiles favoring Trump out of 94,363 analyzed, and 803 fake profiles supporting Biden out of 10,065.


This surge in fake accounts, particularly those favoring Trump, appears to be part of a coordinated effort to sway voter opinions, marked by the simultaneous use of identical hashtags and posting times. The main messages pushed by these pro-Trump fake accounts were endorsements of Trump and disparaging remarks about Biden.

In contrast, the fake accounts that praised Biden did not show signs of being part of a coordinated campaign.


X, which has faced scrutiny over fake accounts since the 2016 election interference by Russia, was taken over by billionaire Elon Musk in 2022. Despite internal reviews suggesting a low presence of fake accounts, Cyabra’s findings indicate a higher percentage of inauthentic profiles. Musk has stated that X is actively working to remove bots and enforce legal actions against the creators of these fake accounts.


No comments have been made by X, the White House, or the Trump campaign regarding this report.


Key Points

  1. Significant Presence of Fake Accounts: The study conducted by Cyabra discovered that 15% of accounts supporting former President Donald Trump and criticizing President Joe Biden were fake. For accounts supporting Biden and criticizing Trump, 7% were identified as fake.

  2. Coordinated Campaign for Trump: The analysis indicated that the fake accounts favoring Trump were part of a coordinated effort. These accounts used identical hashtags and posted simultaneously, pushing messages to support Trump and criticize Biden.

  3. Platform’s Response and Oversight: Despite previous claims by X (formerly Twitter) that a minimal percentage of its accounts were fake, the study suggests a higher incidence of inauthentic profiles. Following its takeover by Elon Musk, X has initiated measures to purge bots and enforce legal actions against their creators.


FAQs

Q1: When does the 2024 U.S. presidential election start?

The 2024 U.S. presidential election is scheduled for Tuesday, November 5, 2024.


Q2: What percentage of accounts on X are fake according to the recent study?

The study by Cyabra found that 15% of pro-Trump accounts and 7% of pro-Biden accounts analyzed were fake.


Q3: How does Cyabra identify fake accounts on X?

Cyabra uses machine learning technology to analyze account behavior, such as posting times and hashtag usage, to identify patterns that indicate whether an account is fake.


Q4: What actions is X taking to address the issue of fake accounts?

X, under the leadership of Elon Musk, has been actively working to remove bots and trolls from the platform and has initiated a "Not a Bot" program in some countries to combat fake accounts.


Reference

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