Bots, Trolls and Social Bots: The good, the bad and the ugly

Juan Carlos Medina Serrano, Germany

Juan Carlos Medina Serrano is a data scientist working at the Bavarian School for Public Policy of the Technical University of Munich. He was born in Mexico and studied Physics Engineering at the Tecnológico de Monterrey. He moved to Germany and took Masters degrees in Computational Science and Engineering and Data Engineering and Analytics. Juan Carlos has worked as a data scientist in companies like BMW, Bosch and Siemens. Currently he is doing a PhD and his research involves the spread of misinformation in social media and its effects on the political landscape. He has participated in several radio interviews and in TV programmes, such as the Stream from Al Jazeera and Sat.1.

How bots can be an effective tool for communications in universities and for disseminating knowledge. 

In the last decade social media have transformed the way we communicate and interact with others. Interactions online occur not only between humans, but also between computer programmed entities - the so-called bots. In general, a bot is an application that performs an automated task. Social bots, in particular, are automated social media accounts that pretend to be real users in order to manipulate public opinion and spread false information. Lately several mayor news outlets have shown them as a threat to democracy, but are they? In this talk, Juan Carlos will demonstrate, for instance, the influence that social bots had in the 2016 U.S election and the 2017 German federal election.

Bots can also be used for many beneficial purposes. Chatterbots, for example, help people by automating human communication and services. Until now, most of them have been perceived as unsophisticated but with the advances of AI, virtual assistants will become an important part of different milieus, including academia. The second part of the talk will focus on how bots could help turning CRM systems into more customisable systems with the help of data science techniques. Additionally, the future impact of bots on the internal communication of universities and in the spread of knowledge will be considered.