Bots love vaping, according to new research.
In recent years, electronic cigarettes have been gaining popularity, pushing fuel tobacco and unleashing controversy and fandom.
But public health officials and doctors have tried to warn that the hype is premature and that the effects of electronic cigarettes on health are largely unknown.
Now, scientists at San Diego State University have discovered that part of that uproar has been generated by the bots.
In fact, most tweets in vaping praise were just automatic messages written by electronic devices on electronics.
Therefore, the researchers are concerned, the bots may actually be behind the driver's seat of the vaping discussion, diverting public perception to see that vaping is healthier than what science has shown so far.
Bots like this dominate Twitter's conversation about vaping, often stating that electronic cigarettes are not harmful to health, reveals recent research
There is no doubt that vaping is more popular than ever.
Electronic cigarettes have reached the hands of more than nine million loyal users in the US. UU., And there are no signs that the market slows down.
And it's not just that smokers are changing.
Teenagers are picking up electronic cigarettes from left to right.
Juul is great now, smoking cigarettes is not like that and social networks, of course, have something to do with each trend, and how good, bad or healthy the public sees everything.
Researchers at San Diego State University (SDSU) simply wondered how Americans see and analyze electronic cigarettes, as expressed online.
They went in search of patterns of what people said, but what they discovered were not people at all, although they were designed to sound like us.
"We're not talking about accounts made to represent organizations, or a business or a cause, these accounts are made to look like normal people," said the study's lead author, Dr. Lourdes Martin.
At first, she and her team divided the 194,000 tweets they had extracted from Twitter according to who wrote them (individuals or organizations) and the sentiment they expressed (positive or negative).
From them, they selected a random sample of less than 1,000 tweets, and 887 of them, they discovered, were shared by individuals, which may have been bots or not.
They overwhelmingly supported electronic cigarettes, with 67% of tweets that transmitted messages.
Regarding the harmfulness of vaping, 54 percent of individuals tweets said that electronic cigarettes "are not harmful" or do much less harm than combustible tobacco.
WHAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT E-CIGARETTES
How do they work:
Electronic cigarettes use a mixture of flavored liquids and nicotine to create a vapor.
This vapor is then inhaled by the user in a similar way to how a common cigarette would smoke.
Are these devices safe?
Since these devices do not use traditional smoke, people assume they are safe for you.
But the liquid in electronic cigarettes can contain harmful toxins and carcinogens, including antifreeze.
The nicotine in electronic cigarettes also has addictive components and can lead to another use of tobacco. This can hinder brain development in adolescents.
In addition, the devices can overheat and explode if they are defective.
The Food and Drug Administration does not certify electronic cigarettes as a product to stop smoking regular cigarettes.
And most of those positive messages probably come from bots.
"This raises the question: to what extent is online public health discourse driven by robot accounts?" Said Dr. Martinez.
& # 39; Like most of [bots] they are "trade oriented" or "policy oriented", misleading the results of the analysis and providing erroneous conclusions for the analysis ".
Twitter offers the perfect platform for causes to be unified and win, and for users to legitimize each other.
In this case, the research team is concerned that the bots may be encouraging support to vape and mobilize interests that clash with public health initiatives that warn against the use of any tobacco product.
And now there are more people who consult on the Internet than the doctor about their health problems.
Americans go to the doctor only three times a year, but spend 52 hours looking for health information online. Nearly all of the 98 percent of people surveyed in the Pew study earlier this year were looking for health information on the Internet.
For the most part, people sought information that did not come from doctors who wrote blogs or wrote in online journals, but from other patients.
In view of the trust people place in each other to shed light on online health issues, disinformation spread by bots disguised as individuals was a major concern for Dr. Martinez and her research team.
& # 39; Organization between the defenders of electronic cigarettes [online] it can lead to a renormalization of tobacco that can undermine previous public health gains, "the study authors wrote.
The study, published this week in the Journal of Health Communication, could not identify the exact owners of the robots, however, many questions remain.
"Do these robot accounts evade regulations? I do not know the answer to that, but that's something consumers deserve to know, and there are some very clear rules about tobacco marketing and the ways in which it is regulated," he said.