Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Both left and right tend to perceive tweets that contradict their own political views as outpourings of bots

Political Bot Bias in the Perception of Online Discourse. Shane Schweitzer, Kyle S. H. Dobson, and Adam Waytz. Social Psychological and Personality Science, February 27, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1177/19485506231156020

Abstract: Four nationally representative studies (N = 1,986; three preregistered) find evidence for a bias in how people perceive opposing viewpoints expressed through online discourse. These studies elucidate a political bot bias, where political partisans (vs. their out-party) are more likely to view counter-ideological (vs. ideologically consistent) tweets to be social media bots (vs. humans). Study 1 demonstrates that American Democrats and Republicans are more likely to attribute tweets to bots when those tweets express counter-ideological views. Study 2 demonstrated this bias with actual bot tweets generated by the Russian government and comparable human tweets. Study 3 demonstrated this bias manifests in the context of real recent elections and is associated with markers of political animosity. Study 4 experimentally demonstrates the consequences of bot attribution for perceptions of online political discourse. Our findings document a consistent bias that has implications for political discussion online and political polarization more broadly.