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Social Media Bots and the Community Planning Process

Recently published research examines the "Role of Artificial Intelligence in Community Planning"—that is, the role of automated bots on social media in corrupting participatory planning processes.
November 20, 2020, 6am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Jason A. Howie

New research published by the International Journal of Community Well-Being—written by Justin B. Hollander, Ruth Potts, Maxwell Hartt, and Miny Situ—examines the potential roles and risk of automated social media accounts to influence the community engagement components of planning processes.

Inherent to this investigation is an awareness of the growing awareness of land use development issues, as enabled by the Internet and its many social media platforms. As has been well documented with regard to issues of national and presidential politics, automated social media profiles can be deployed to corrupt the public discourse.

"Due to the low cost and high potential engagement, planners and policymakers have been quick to open electronic channels of participation to inform the decision-making process. Doing so has created an opportunity for subversion from groups with alternate and possibly nefarious interests," reads the abstract for the research.

In the process of reviewing the relevant literature, the paper reveals comes key terminology that defines the strategies of social bots (e.g., astroturfing, spamming, and Twitter bombs) that might be helpful in diagnosing the behavior and tenor of online accounts. Eventually the paper offers a list of mitigation strategies to help planners ensure that social bots don't overwhelm the public trust in planning processes.

The entire paper is available online via Springer.

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Published on Tuesday, October 27, 2020 in International Journal of Community Well-Being
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