DOI: 10.36190/2020.17

Published: 2020-06-05
Middle East Twitter bots and the covid-19 infodemic
Alexei Abrahams, Noura Aljizawi

Misinformation is often found to be propagated by coordinated networks of accounts ('bots', 'sockpuppets'). We looked for such networks on Middle East Twitter by following 149 search filters related to covid-19 during March-April, 2020. Contrary to the hype, the share of plausible bots ran on the order of 4-7% per filter, comparable to pre-covid-19 rates. Leveraging contextual knowledge, we inspected two Arabic and one Persian networks more closely. We found reasons to doubt their inauthenticity, and scant evidence of misinformation. We conjecture that fears of Twitter being overrun by misinformative bot armies may be overblown, at least on Middle East filters during the covid-19 'infodemic'.