Online News Buffeted By Bots

The Pew research center may have hit on one of the reasons local broadcast TV remains the top source for news, as often reflected in its surveys.

The prevalence of bots on social media has made consumers very concerned about where and from whom they were getting their news, a new Pew survey found. Bots are computer-generated programs that post and interact on social media sites, but are increasingly hard to distinguish from humans doing the same thing.

A vast majority of respondents who knew about bot activity (81%) said a “fair amount” of news on social media — or considering the source, perhaps that should have been “unfair amount” — comes from those auto-generated accounts.

Two-thirds of respondents also said they thought those bots had a “mostly negative” effect on how well-informed Americans — including themselves — are about current events.

Social media bots generating fake news have been fingered by Washington policymakers as a culprit in election meddling and other attempts to sow discord in the country by outside, or inside, actors.

Buttressing the case for local TV as a trusted source, a Pew study in June found that a majority of Americans (72%) said they thought it is likely that social media platforms censor political speech that those sites find objectionable.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.