If this wasn’t so serious it might be laughable but this week Russian Bots have been transformed into real people by Sky News.
What is an internet bot?
The definition of an internet bot has always been a ‘web robot’ which is a software application. Its job is to perform tasks or run scripts on the internet at speeds that humans could never achieve. However, according to Alastair Bunkall who is the Sky News Defence Correspondent that’s only part of what Russian bots are. As can be seen in the video below, Bunkall describes bots that may be acting for the Kremlin whether they are paid or not. Either he is suggesting that software is paid (or not) which is doubtful, or that bots are humans. These bots, he says push out messages from the Kremlin. He goes further in describing other bots as those who are sympathetic to Russia. These types of bots apparently tweet their personal opinions on matters such as the Skripal poisoning and Syria. We’re sure it will be news to software engineers and manufacturers that their bots are capable of sympathy and having opinions.
Government report identifies “Kremlin inspired” Russian Bots
The cause of Sky’s interest in Russian bots is a report recently released by the government. Compiled by Whitehall, research suggests that Russian bot, troll and automated account online activity rose by 4000 percent after the Skripal poisoning and alleged Syrian chemical attack.
Described as “Kremlin inspired” by the government, Sky News focused on one of the Twitter accounts that the report had identified. This was @Partisangirl which the government had apparently “looked into very deeply”. It was acknowledged that the account holder was a real person (the newly invented type of Sky bot). But the account holder consistently tweeted pro Russia and pro Syria content.
Since 2011 the account has tweeted 48.9K tweets. What Bunkall fails to point out is that included in the figure are retweets the account holder personally made. The account was opened in June 2011 and has averaged 134 tweets including retweets per week or 19 per day. Twitter limits accounts to 2,400 tweets including retweets per day. So it would appear that @Partisangirl is not taking full advantage of her “bot” capacity.
Who is @Partisangirl?
Her real name is Maram Susli, a prolific vlogger, contributor to InfoWars and Journal NEO. A Syrian/Australian and Geopolitical Analyst she has several social media account IDs including Syrian Girl, Partisan Girl and Syrian Sister among others. She was quite surprised to learn that she had been described as one of thousands of Russian bots. Her response to this allegation can be seen below:
Despite the Sky News attempt to redefine bots it is widely acknowledged by the IT industry that they are robot software. Perhaps they could contact Sky News to let them know that people who don’t share the opinion of particular governments are not Russian bots. They are just people who feel passionate about political issues, political analysts, vloggers etc.
We also draw Sky’s attention to one of their own news presenters and journalists, Kay Burley. Her Twitter account has clocked up 59K tweets and retweets since 2013, significantly more than @Partisangirl. Andrew Neil’s Twitter account @afneil tweets and retweets are not significantly lower at 48K. We surely wouldn’t suggest that these highly respected Sky and BBC presenters are Russian Bots – or would we? If analysis is based on the amount of tweets or a differing opinion it seems we might! What on earth has happened to investigative journalism?
We dread to imagine what lie detector test results might reveal, assuming we had enough time to put all the people involved through them!