NATO STRATCOM center identifies ''robotrolling" threat

The Riga-based NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence (STRATCOMCOE) on November 8 hosted an event revealing its latest research on the activities of 'bots' in the Baltic states.

According to research carried out by the center, around 60% of Russian language Twitter accounts tweeting about NATO and military matters in the Baltic states during the first three quarters of the year were automated or 'bot' accounts.

Introducing the research, the center's director Janis Sārts said the use of bot networks was: "Increasingly commonplace... it's something we'll have to live with for the foreseeable future," but that new "skill sets" needed to be developed to help people cope with the highly polluted online environment.

The English-language Twittersphere was only marginally better, with 39% of users rated as bots - and the research identified a clear increase in English-language activity at the time of the Zapad military exercises taking place in Russia and Belarus.

Presenting the data, STRATCOMCOE expert Rolf Fredheim told LSM that over the months during which 30,000 accounts were examined, some interesting trends had emerged.

Rolf Fredheim of STRATCOMCOE on botsMike Collier/LSM

    "By comparing activity levels in March-July with those of August-October, the variation observed for the four states hosting NATO troops, and the evidence of bots-for-hire being active in our dataset, we estimate politicized bots account for 5-15% of the total volume of Twitter messaging about NATO troops in Latvia and Estonia," a summary of the research said.

    "Russian-language bots create roughly 70% of all Russian messages about NATO in the Baltic states and Poland... [bots] created 52% of all English-language messages in the period August-October," it adds. 

    As to what those messages are, it is suggested that "Messages aimed at the West suggested that Russian exercises pale in comparison with NATO operations. Messages targeted to the domestic audience rarely mentioned the Russian exercises."

    You can read the full report via the tweet below.

     

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