Anti-Muslim online surges driven by fake accounts to influence political discourse

  • A global network of anti-Muslim activists is using Twitter bots, fake news and the manipulation of images to influence political discourse, new analysis reveals.
  • Many have recorded significant growth in their social media followings over the past year, co-ordinating to push the message that Islam is an “imminent threat” to western society.
  • Researchers from the anti-racist organisation Hope Not Hate found that the impact of tweets from one controversial US activist, Pamela Geller, who is banned from the UK, is magnified by 102 bots, automated or semi-automated accounts that automatically tweet or retweet their content.
  • Researchers also monitored a sample of popular anti-Muslim Twitter accounts in Britain and the US between March and November this year, and found that, on average, there was a 117% growth in followers.
  • The image of the Muslim woman – who has since spoken of her distress at the attack and the abuse she suffered afterwards – was later superimposed on pictures after the Manchester attack.
  • The simplest bots follow and retweet other users. A user with a large number of followers is generally easier to trust and may seem more “legitimate”. The more advanced bots often mix human control with artificial intelligence, and are notoriously difficult to detect.

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