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The Markets of Manipulation: The Trading of Social Bots on Clearnet and Darknet Markets

Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNISA,volume 12021)

Abstract

Since the Brexit vote and the 2016 U.S. election, much has been speculated about the use of so-called social bots, (semi-)automatized pseudo-users in online media, as political manipulation tools. Accumulating global evidence shows that pseudo-users are used for different purposes, such as the amplification of political topics or the simulation of large numbers of followers. Social bots, as a (semi-)automated pseudo-user type, are part of a larger infrastructure, among others, entailing network access, fake accounts, and hosting services. Users and providers of social bots and their infrastructure can differ. Thus, it is plausible that a digital goods market has emerged for the exchange of social bots and infrastructure components. The present study used an ethnographic approach to study the accessibility, availability, and prices for pseudo-users and social bots on markets in the (German- and English-language) Clearnet and Darknet. The results show that an infrastructure for digital manipulation is widely available online, and that the tools for artificial content or connectedness amplification are easily accessible for lay users and are cheap on Clearnet and Darknet markets.

Keywords

  • Social bots
  • Darknet
  • Clearnet
  • Trading
  • Market

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Fig. 2.

Notes

  1. 1.

    For an overview of social bots’ intelligence and the availability of automation tools for different platforms as indicated by the available bot-code, see Assenmacher et al. in this volume.

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Correspondence to Lena Frischlich .

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Appendix

Appendix

Table A. Overview of the study trading venues.

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Frischlich, L., Mede, N.G., Quandt, T. (2020). The Markets of Manipulation: The Trading of Social Bots on Clearnet and Darknet Markets. In: Grimme, C., Preuss, M., Takes, F., Waldherr, A. (eds) Disinformation in Open Online Media. MISDOOM 2019. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 12021. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-39627-5_8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-39627-5_8

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