Our new article with Nicholas Diakopoulos, “News Bots: Automating news and information dissemination on Twitter,” is now out and available online in Digital Journalism. Here’s the abstract:
So-called “robot” journalism represents a shift towards the automation of journalistic tasks related to news reporting, writing, curation, and even data analysis. In this paper, we consider the extension of robot journalism to the domain of social platforms and study the use of “news bots”—automated accounts that participate in news and information dissemination on social networks. Such bots present an intriguing development opportunity for news organizations and journalists. In particular, we analyze a sample of existing news bot accounts on Twitter to understand how news bots are currently being used and to examine how using automation and algorithms may change the modern media environment. Based on our analysis, we propose a typology of news bots in the form of a design and editorial decision space that can guide designers in defining the intent, utility, and functionality of future bots. The proposed design space highlights the limits of news bots (e.g., automated commentary and opinion, algorithmic transparency and accountability) and areas where news bots may enable innovation, such as niche and local news.