Suspected Bots in Social Media Discourses on Climate

PI: Dr. Timmons Roberts and Dr. Thomas Marlow
Discussions about fundamental social issues like how we should respond to the threat of climate change have increasingly shifted to online social media platforms. These arenas are at high risk of manipulation by actors seeking to slow or stop our response. We will study the role of automated accounts (‘bots’) in the creation and maintenance of affective polarization in the online climate change discourse across two major social media platforms: Twitter and Reddit. We will expand our analysis of postings by suspected bots, use Structural Topic Modeling to systematically examine common patterns in word use in tweets and Reddit posts, and conduct network analyses to show the connections between the postings of actors in different sectors, such as industries, governments, think tanks, and civil society. We will examine how the networks of discourse compare across platforms, and which parts of those discourses are dominated by bots.