How convincing is your bot?

The US election saw the most pervasive use of online imposter bots to date. Having conversations with people, colonizing supports of the other camp and using innate messages to try and gaslight the other campaign as well as spreading “fake news” (aka propaganda) in a way that tricks the social engines to trend their own #’s at will.

Yes, the 2016 election was a fun filled romp that requires closer examination. While that is happening, you can watch my research film that take a summary view of exactly what we know and what we don’t about bot used during the 2016 election.

This is a topic that will be more intriguing and have more data available in three to five years.

Project Reflection

Life always has a habit of getting in the way. After a fantastic semester, in week thirteen my father’s illness escalated. I dropped everything and travelled to Tennessee to be by his side. My father subsequently died. When I returned to Australia, my head was far away from my original work, ideas and zone, but I still had to finish the work.

The trip to America was interesting in relation to the work that we covered in this topic. Many of the people that I spoke with were very interested in what people other places thought of their country now that Donald Trump had been elected. They were aware of the echo chamber that they live in, and were eager to hear something else. This was a contrast to every other time I have been back to Tennessee.

As flagged to my tutor, the amount of empirical data available on this topic is virtually non-existent due to the recent nature bot technology. There are several large-scale studies underway on the real impact of bots during the 2016 election in the USA and their impact. At present, there is only some initial data and a lot of theories on projected impacts published in mainstream press and not in peer-reviewed journal articles. The impact of media framing and proliferation of fake news that is seeded by internet propaganda is possibly going to have larger impact as cable news remains the source that people trust most according to recent studies. This issue is still worth being aware of, as it is an emerging issue.

As to the behind the scenes experience of this project: basically, I am familiar with Finalcut Pro, so I used the software to cut the film together. Instantly I appreciated how much time is needed to construct a project in this medium. Initially my intention was to use animated graphics, but I very quickly ran into software issues as my internet had been cut off while I was overseas and my software required another program to animate. So, I employed my phone hotspot and whatever existing software was on my computer. The piece could be cut down and simplified to be less wordy, but at this stage, I feel that it meets the aims of the project sufficiently.

I used my Canon DSLR with top mount microphone to record in my house, preferably while the children were at school. Music was sourced under creative commons from Jamendo except for the Popcorn tracks. Much of the quick cut footage was taken from Google images and from and are credited as much as possible. There were quotations from whatever credible sources I could find that were relevant. I do not credit Cambridge Analytica with being a credible source, but it is relevant to the discussion of technology and the marketplace, so it was included.

Time and life was a barrier to getting this project completed. But, the large amount of reading that I have done on the subject allowed me to move forward. Planning is always of the essence with these projects, but in the end this time, it was all about me just getting something together that explained my topic with relevance, clarity and balance.

Film References:

Behrend, TS 2017, ‘From the Editor: Player piano’, TIP The Industrial Organizational Psychologist, 1 April, p.1

Bessi, A & Ferrara, E 2016, ‘Social bots distort the 2016 U.S. Presidential election online discussion’, First Monday, vol.21, no.11, 7 November 2, viewed 12 May 2017,

Greenwood, S, Perrin, A & Duggan, M 2016, ‘Facebook remains the most popular social media platform’, Social Media Update 2016, Pew Research Centre, 11 Nov, Viewed 20 July 2017, <>

Greenwood, S, Perrin, A & Duggan, M 2016, ‘Almost half of those who learn about the presidential election get news& information from five or more source types’, Social Media Update 2016, Pew Research Centre, 11 Nov, Viewed 20 July 2017, <;

Hess, A 2016, ‘Bots at war for your soul: [the arts/cultural desk]’, New York Times, 15 December, New York

Howard, P, Woolley, S 2016, ‘Twitterbots united: Fake followers could wreck the election’, Alpha, May, pp. 17-18

Larsson, AO, Moe, H 2015, ‘Bots or journalists? News sharing on Twitter’, De Gruyter Mouton, vol.40, no.3, pp.361-370

Jordan, M 2016, ‘In a post-truth election, clicks trump facts’, The Conversation, 26 October,  viewed 4 May 2017

Murthy, D, Powell, AB, Tinati, R, Anstead, N, Carr, L, Halford, SJ, Weal, M 2016, ‘Bots and Political Influence’, International Journal of Communication, vol.10, pp.4952-4971

Nix, Alexander 2016, ‘The power of big data and psychographics’, Concordia, 27 September, viewed 21 July 2017, <;

Samuel, A 2015, ‘How bots took over Twitter’, Harvard Business Review, 19 June, pp.2-5

Wells, C, Shah, DV, Pevehouse, JY, Pelled, A, Boehm, F, Lukito, J, Ghoush, S & Schmidt, JL 2016, ‘How Trump drove coverage to the nomination: Hybrid media campaigning’, Political Communication, vol.33, no.4, pp.669-676

Woolley, S 2016, ‘Resource for understanding political bots’, The Computational Propaganda Project, Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University, 18 November, viewed 5 May 2017,

‘Types of bot: an overview’,, 27 July 2016, viewed 20 July, 2017, <>

Images used: Donald Trump sourced from Business Week, CNN, Trump Hotels, Miss Universe, New York Times, Patriot Nation, Twitter @realDonaldTrump, CNN Money, Computational Propaganda Research Project, Federal Register Executive Order, MSNBC

Film Exerpts

Comedy Central 2016, South Park, Comedy Central, episode 20

NBC 2008, The Apprentice, NBC

Rueger, T & Spielberg, S 1993, Pinky and the Brain, Warner Bros. Television Distribution

Speilberg, S 2002, Minority Report, Dreamworks & 20th Century Fox

Wendcos, P 1959, Gidget, Columbia Pictures


Hot Butter 1972, Popcorn, online, Musicor

Davis, B 1960, Too pooped to pop, online, Chess

Grimsley, J 1986, Sale of the Century Theme

Pavan, Paolo 2015, Open the Source

Sanderson, J 1769, Hail to the Chief, US Army Ceremonial Band


Disclaimer: All film used in this project is under section 248B of the Copyright Act 1968 Australian Commonwealth Government for educational purposes only. No profit will be made from this film project. All un-licenced music is used under creative commons and will not be used to any financial benefit of the films creator.