How to Spot a Bot or Misinformation on the Internet

How to Spot a Bot or Misinformation on the Internet

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Recently, there’s been a surge in social discord and misinformation. With so much misinformation on the internet, most of us are unsure about the authenticity of information online. 

Propagandists and trolls actively seek ways to sow wrong information to spark emotional reactions for traffic or push different agendas. Many even employ online bots to spread fake news, promote shady products, or troll online users.

In this post, we’ll share how to spot a bot or misinformation online, from social media sites to forums and video streaming services.

What Are Online Bots?

Online bots on social media and other channels are automated accounts or programs that disseminate false or misleading information. They mimic human behavior and influence public opinion by spreading specific messages to different audiences. Here are the most common types:

  • Political Bots – Political bots are commonly used to spread fake political news and control public opinion on internal or global issues;
  • Traffic Bots – Traffic bots are used to drive traffic to business websites and pages by luring visitors through relevant “click-worthy” content;
  • Troll Bots – As their name suggests, troll bots are designed to spread discord, create chaos, and share misleading information that creates division, conflict, etc.

What Is Misinformation?

Misinformation, also known as false information and sometimes disinformation can be defined as stories or news that deliberately deceives readers or viewers on social media and other channels. Misinformation serves various purposes, including (but not limited to):

  • Presenting biased or prejudiced opinions;
  • Creating confusion among the public;
  • Spreading clickbait for financial gain;
  • Promoting ideological agendas;
  • Creating panic and fear;
  • Testing cybersecurity defenses, etc.

Five Ways to Spot a Bot or Misinformation on the Internet

There are multiple ways to spot a bot or misinformation online.

Watch Out for Abnormal Account Activity

One of the simplest ways to spot a bot is to check the number of engagements on social media posts over time. Most bot-based posts have a short lifespan with unusual activity spikes. You’ll also see responses or comments flooding shortly after the post goes live. Most of these reactions are auto-generated, as humans generally take longer to respond to a message.

Pay Attention to the Engagement and Compare With Followers

Most bots are programmed to perform automatic actions like reshares, likes, and retweets. However, commenting is much more difficult. So, another way to identify bots is to assess the ratio of comments to easier activities. For instance, you can find a post with thousands of likes but barely any responses or promotional ones that entice you to click on a link. To make your online investigation safer, use a VPN to hide your real IP address and prevent cybercriminals from tracking your personal information. Check more on the advantages of a VPN for desktop to make an informed choice.

Assess Your Feelings When Reading Information

Online bots typically post information to spark a reaction. So, if you feel angry, frustrated, or sad seeing a post, that’s a red flag. Most news pages share unbiased information from a neutral perspective. They aim to inform the public with relevant information or updates, not mislead them by sharing narratives that play with their emotions.

Determine If the Information Is Believable

Another simple way to spot misinformation is by determining if the information is believable. For instance, anyone can claim that the earth is flat and share theories to provide evidence. No matter how believable they may sound, you should know better than to succumb to their lies.

These experts use human psychology to spread information like stories to captivate their audiences. So, ensure you quickly search to confirm the information from other sources.

Always Check the Information Source

Finally, you should always check the information source to distinguish facts from opinions. By thoroughly researching the material and assessing the evidence, you can draw a better conclusion to determine if the information is true or fake. For instance, you can check if the person serving the news is known for conspiring or sharing shady information.

The Bottom Line

Bots and misinformation are a growing problem in the digital landscape. They share fake news, spread chaos, and create conflict among the public. Therefore, it’s up to you to take proactive measures to determine the authenticity of the information you view on social media or anywhere.

With due diligence, you can avoid succumbing to misinformation or engaging with online bots designed to get your attention and prompt you to act. 

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