Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko may not be as popular in social media as he seems. Instead, a significant portion of comment left on his Facebook page actually comes from robot accounts, a new joint investigation by the Voxukraine project and TheRespo company suggests.
Over the course of Poroshenko’s presidency, more than 79 thousand unique Facebook users have written at least one comment on the President’s official Facebook page. In total, they made around 176 thousand comments. TheRespo analyzed each user and comment and concluded that 98% of the commenters (77.5 thousand) are real people.
However, according to the investigation, every sixth comment on Poroshenko’s Facebook page actually came from an online robot.
In other words, the remaining 2% of commenters — 1,500 robots — left about 26 thousand comments, or 15% of all entries.
(The study did not distinguish between robot accounts controlled by an algorithm and those controlled by a real person.)
Not all the robots supported Poroshenko. Only 27% tended towards positive comments. Additionally, some of the positive bots displayed behavior that investigators considered too strange for a pro-Poroshenko PR campaign led by the presidential communications team.
The investigation also concluded that around 29% of bots were negative. However, not all of them are focused on Poroshenko; many also left broadly anti-Ukrainian comments. Some also traded in spam.
Finally, 44% of robots on Poroshenko’s Facebook page did not display a dominant tendency toward either positive or negative comments.
Poroshenko would hardly be alone in his ties to online robots. In May, the office of Ukraine’s Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor announced that Mykola Martynenko, a former parliamentarian suspected of stealing $17 million, used bots on social networks to distort public opinion.