/ Information Warfare

Rise of the Politibots

In June (which seems far more distant than it really is) I spent some time at Jigsaw (The Google incubator focused on tackling tough global security issues) contributing to critical discussions about bots. Our small group looked at them from several different perspectives but I was part of an even smaller team (listed below) that focused on how these tools are leveraged to acheive political aims. I don't think that I need to explain why this issue is important at this time.

I've discussed aspects of this problem on Twitter and on Covert Contact for quite some time - mostly from the perspective of how it was, and is, impacting the United States politically and socially. The work with Jigsaw grew out of my fellowship at IFTF and discussions with IFTF co-fellow Samuel Woolley (who now leads the Digital Intelligence Lab there) about specific findings from my own monitoring in 2015 and later.

Six-ish months later, some of our work is now surfacing at Motherboard in 'The Bots That Are Changing Politics'. It is a foundational piece, rather than a deep data-driven dive into bot activity, but it has become increasingly clear that wrapping an evolving taxonomy around political bots is an essential first step if we hope to develop successful strategies aimed at mitigating their impact over the long-term.

If you want to stay on top of this problem I can't recommend the work of my co-authors on this piece enough. Follow them to stay on the bleeding edge of developments in computational propaganda and efforts to counter it:

  • Renee DiResta (@noupside) Founding member of Haven, 2017 Presidential Leadership Scholar.
  • Jonathon Morgan (@jonathanmorgan) Founder and CEO, NewKnowledge.io
  • Lisa Maria Neudert (@lmneudert Researcher, Computational Propaganda Project, University of Oxford
  • Ben Nimmo (@benimmo) Information defense fellow, the Digital Forensic Research Lab, Future Europe Initiative, Atlantic Council
  • Samuel Woolley (@samuelwoolley) Research director, DigIntel Lab, Institute for the Future, researcher, Computational Propaganda Project, University of Oxford

And if you appreciate the work I do here, and on Covert Contact, please consider supporting me on Patreon.


Like what you're hearing on Covert Contact? Become a Patron to get insider access to special episodes and updates!



John W. Little

John W. Little

John W. Little is the creator of Blogs of War and the host of the Covert Contact national security podcast.

Read More