Bots run rampant on social media, and most people can’t tell the difference anymore

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There was a time when it was more or less easy to spot fake profiles on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Images were usually pirated from elsewhere and easily traced, and the posts were almost always poorly written in a robotic fashion. Fast forward to today, however, and the AI boom of 2023 is blurring the lines between real social media accounts and bots more difficult than ever before.

Scientists from Copenhagen Business School conducted an experiment in which 375 participants were asked to differentiate between real and fake social media profiles. The fake accounts were created and maintained by some of the latest AI technology. The ensuing results were eye-opening. Subjects largely could not tell the difference between artificially generated fake Twitter accounts and real ones. Moreover, participants actually tended to erroneously think the AI accounts were less likely to be fake than the genuine ones.

The research team set up their own mock Twitter feed that focused specifically on the war in Ukraine. That feed featured both real and generated profiles with tweets supporting both sides of the debate surrounding the conflict. The AI profiles used computer-generated synthetic profile pictures created via StyleGAN. Meanwhile, AI posts were generated by GPT-3, the same language model that is behind ChatGPT.