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CITP Luncheon Speaker Series – Sam Woolley: The Politics of the Social Bot: A Global Study of Computational Propaganda

Monday, March 28, 2016
12:30 pm


Sherrerd Hall, 3rd floor open space
Princeton, NJ 08544 United States + Google Map

Food and discussion begin at 12:30 pm. No RSVP required for Princeton faculty, staff, and students. Open to members of the public by invitation only. Please contact Jean Butcher at if you are interested in attending a particular lunch.

Political actors around the world are beginning to use social bots—automated software programs designed to interact with and imitate human users–to manipulate public opinion. Social bots have been used across numerous online platforms to spread various forms of propaganda, flood newsfeeds with political spam, and pad politicians’ social media follower lists. In many regimes, political leaders and government officials have commissioned bots to aggressively attack opponents, whether those opponents are civil society groups or the opposition candidates in rigged elections. Bots are also used, however, for causes related to activism, protest and social justice. Data journalists now use bots as ‘information radiators’–to publish stories that might otherwise go unseen. The algorithms that run bot software are often proprietary and hidden, and the content that a particular bot produces might be unexpected—even by coders—because bots operate in collaboration with real users. This talk highlights the history and trajectory of political bots via the presentation of a globally comparative event dataset alongside information gathered in the field from the makers and trackers of this technology.


Sam Woolley researches the politics of automated social actors. He is the project manager of the Computational Propaganda Research Project at the University of Washington and Oxford Internet Institute. This multi-year endeavor focuses on the politicization of internet bots. He conducts research through the Tech Policy Center, the Center for Communication and CIvic Engagement & the Digital Activism Research Project–all based at UW. Sam lives in Seattle and tweets from @samuelwoolley.