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Twitter finds 'no evidence' of mass effort by 'bots' to influence coronavirus debate in Ireland


Leo Varadkar casts his vote REUTERS/Phil Noble

Leo Varadkar casts his vote REUTERS/Phil Noble

Leo Varadkar casts his vote REUTERS/Phil Noble

TWITTER has said it sees no evidence of extensive "politicised bots" seeking in influence the social media debate on the coronavirus crisis in Ireland.

In recent days there have been claims that pro-government 'bots' have been deployed to laud ministers' response to the pandemic.

Health Minister Simon Harris has been on the receiving end of a large amount of praise online for his efforts to halt the spread of the disease.

This has prompted claims among some Twitter users that fake accounts are promoting the government.

Accounts with few followers, no profile picture, or which have a series of numbers in the user name and have made positive comments about the government response have been accused of being so-called 'bots'.

Users who were long dormant or only set up since the virus emergency started have also been on the receiving end of speculation that they're automated or fake accounts.

The allegations are often accompanied by the hashtags #Leobots or #Concannonbots.

That's after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar brought back PR guru John Concannon - who was part of the controversial and now defunct Strategic Communications Unit, to manage the Government's public information campaign on the Coronavirus crisis.

Twitter this evening responded to queries on the issue in a series of online posts.

Its Dublin-based account said: "We’re focused on protecting the public conversation and helping people find authoritative sources of information on #COVID19.

"Our specialist teams investigated and do not see evidence of extensive politicized bots amplifying narratives on the pandemic conversation in Ireland."

The statement added: "In recent weeks, we've seen more and more new people joining Twitter to follow what’s happening and find the authoritative information they need.

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"Having no profile photo or having a numbered handle or username does not mean an account is automated; it often just means it’s new."

The Twitter statement also said: "If you see anything suspicious on our service, please report it to us.

"This is an evolving global conversation and we will remain vigilant."

It provided a link to a blog post outlining its rules and the "proactive steps" being taken by the company to "protect the public conversation".

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