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Debate around Social Bots : Germany is missing a strategy against manipulation attempts

In the USA, you know now, how quick fights can be manipulated, in the UK it is being discussed already since the Brexit Referendum. In Germany, however, the deb

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Debate around Social Bots : Germany is missing a strategy against manipulation attempts

In the USA, you know now, how quick fights can be manipulated, in the UK it is being discussed already since the Brexit Referendum. In Germany, however, the debate of political manipulation of trials so far, especially in narrow expert circles took place. In this respect, the Chairman of the Union faction in the Bundestag, Ralph brinkhaus has launched, with its proposal for compulsory labelling of Social Bots is an important debate – even if the Echo fails divided on its foray.

"Social Bots are only one aspect of the total situation," says Jens Zimmermann, digital policy spokesman of the SPD group in the Bundestag. Human actors still have a far greater impact on the opinion formation in social networks. Zimmermann believes that the debate on possible mind manipulation is still at the beginning. "I'm surprised this topic depends in Germany still so low," says Zimmermann. A possible explanation for this is that there have been in Germany so far, no fatal effects through manipulation of Opinion – unlike, for example, in countries such as the USA or Ukraine.

The word "Bot" is a short form of "robot". If by Bots, automated programs that are not controlled by people. Compared to human "trolls" have Bots two advantages: you can react in real time to current debates in the social networks. And you can theoretically program an infinite number of them, and with Social-Media Accounts to link.

It is relatively easy to program a Bot. In the network there is Software for this to work, and in a few minutes. Most of the Bots are controlled by simple arithmetic operations – you do not have so the ability to learn independently. However, it is possible, for example, to search texts for keywords and respond to certain actions in the social networks in a pre-programmed way.

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For modern forms of opinion manipulation resulting from a number of application possibilities. Some of the Bots post, for example, under the guise of a supposedly human Twitter profile, as long as the same Hashtag, until it becomes the "Trend". The importance of a particular topic can be simulated. Other Bots interfere with debates on a specific topic with hate comments – in this way it can be prevented, for example, that it comes on Facebook for a reasonable exchange of views. Others spread in the wind information with manipulativem character, which is taken up by human users and more.

Bots can help to stifle debates

Bots are also for attacks on democratic decision-making processes is interesting, because you can suffocate with your help, debates and discourses can be broken. So elections can be influenced, and the Actions of democratic States are slowing down in crisis situations. Critics argue that the dismantling of the discourse held not only in the social networks. In addition, there are concerns that a mandatory labelling of Bots could affect the freedom in the network.

Frank Sitta, Deputy Chairman of the FDP parliamentary group in the Bundestag, against a labelling requirement for Social Bots. "The labelling requirement by law is an interference with the rights of private enterprises and therefore subject to special restraint," says Sitta. "Such an intervention could have in terms of freedom of expression and openness to Innovation and even opposite effects."

Lena-Sophie Müller, managing Director of the "Initiative D21 e. V." and member of the Enquete-Commission, Artificial intelligence, wishes that the debate is conducted in a broader context. A labelling requirement for Social Bots is a good step. However, this could only be a building block. For the protection of political decision-making processes, there is need for more, she says: "Also a clear promotion of digital competences as a kind of strengthening of the immune system of the population."

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Social networks Brinkhaus debate on regulation of Social Bots

stimulates has been the Federal government, with many individual aspects of political manipulation. What is missing so far, however, is an overarching strategy in dealing with manipulation. The EU is a step further: Already in the beginning of December, it presented its "action plan against disinformation", which provides for, among other things, the establishment of a "Rapid Alert system", with the transnational manipulation attempts are detected faster and more reported.

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