Did you know that if you share or like a post about e-cigarettes you may actually be liking something written by a devious artificial intelligence?
Did you know that if you write a positive post about vaping you may be a bot?
That is what some genius scientists over at San Diego State University are saying.
From the Daily Mail Online:
Bots love vaping, according to new research.
In the last several years, e-cigarettes have been gaining popularity, pushing combustible tobacco over and sparking both controversy and fandom.
But public health officials and doctors have tried to caution that the hype is premature and the health effects of e-cigarettes are largely unknown.
Now, scientists at San Diego State University have discovered that some of that buzz has been generated by bots.
In fact, the majority of tweets in praise of vaping were just automated messages written by electronic devices about electronics.
So, the researchers worry, bots may actually be behind the driver's seat of the vaping discussion, skewing public perception to see vaping as healthier than science has as of yet shown.
Researchers at San Diego State University (SDSU) simply wondered exactly how Americans see and discuss e-cigarettes, as expressed online.
They went looking for patterns what people were saying but what they found were not people at all - although they were designed to sound like us.
'We are not talking about accounts made to represent organizations, or a business or a cause. These accounts are made to look like regular people,' said lead study author, Dr Lourdes Martin.
At first, she and her team divided the 194,000 tweets they had scraped from Twitter according to who wrote them (individuals or organizations) and the sentiment they expressed (positive or negative).
From those, they picked a random sample of less than 1,000 tweets, and 887 of those, they discovered, were shared by individuals, who may have been bots or not.
Oh, goodness. "Expert scientists" at San Diego State went through all that trouble and can't actually tell if the tweets were actually shared by bots or actual people.
(As a side note, how much grant money was given to fund this "study"?)
Why did the scientists collect nearly 200,000 then only use 1,000 and not make an inference on the larger collection of tweets?
Perhaps the journalist just doesn't know what is going on in the research. This happens all of time as journalists aren't actually experts and typically only have a passing familiarity with the topic being discussed.
[continuing at Daily Mail]
They were overwhelmingly in support of e-cigarettes, with 67 percent tweeting pro-vaping messages.
When it came to the harmfulness of vaping, 54 percent of tweets from individuals claimed that e-cigarettes are 'not harmful' or do far less damage than combustible tobacco does.
And most of those positive messages probably came from bots.
'This raises the question: To what extent is the public health discourse online being driven by robot accounts,' Dr Martinez said.
’Since most of [bots] are "commercial-oriented" or "political-oriented," they will skew the analysis results and provide wrong conclusions for the analysis.'
Twitter offers the perfect platform for causes to unify and gain steam, and for users to legitimize one another.
In this case, the research team worries that bots may be fueling support for vaping and mobilizing interests that clash with public health initiatives cautioning against the use of any tobacco products.
What about the negative messages about vaping? No mention about how many of those were examined for probability for fakeness, but it seems like the reader is meant to think that negative comments are always real and written by someone that cares.
The FDA recently complained that bots spammed the ANPRM comments with 255,000 fake negative messages in an attempt to get the FDA to ban flavored vape juice among other flavored tobacco products. But no one tries to post negative comments about vaping to influence the FDA on social media.
Scientists are worried about the positive messages!
All this support online and testimonials about how vaping had a positive impact in a person's life is fake!
A majority of messages are saying e-cigarettes "do far less damage" couldn't be real even though actual research has shown e-cigs are less carcinogenic. Public Health UK has said the same thing for years and even the American Cancer Society has changed its stance on vaping.
Not only is everything positive fake (or possibly not since no one can tell), these bots may be affecting pubic opinion against public health initiatives.
People (now bots) posting positive sentiments online are wrecking all the efforts these scientists and advocates have in store for the general public and should cease all efforts immediately!
In view of the trust people put in one another to shed light on health issues online, disinformation spread by bots masquerading as individuals was a serious concern to Dr Martinez and her research team.
'Organization among advocates of e-cigarettes [online] may result in a renormalization of tobacco that can undermine prior gains in public health,' the study authors wrote.
The study, published this week in the Journal of Health Communication was not able to identify the bots' exact owners, however, so many questions still remain.
'Are these robot accounts evading regulations? I do not know the answer to that. But that is something consumers deserve to know, and there are some very clear rules about tobacco marketing and the ways in which it is regulated,' she said.
That last paragraph seems like she is saying "Hey, you could actually be breaking a law by saying positive stuff about vaping. And you are probably a bot anyway." If these types had their way, we will have to have a licence to post on Twitter or Facebook.
Does it seem weird that journalists and scientists think we are all idiots who can't make up our own minds about anything?
You may be getting tricked by a crafty little online terminator tweetbot and not even be able to tell that it just tricked you into thinking vaping is cool and not going to kill you any second now.
Perhaps Skynet is already online and the first step to robot world domination is confusing Twitter users.
We all got faked out on this vaping thing guys.
Do the bots think we should go back to cigarettes?