Article Information

THEMATIC LANDSCAPE OF THE BOT-SPACE OF THE SOCIAL NETWORK “VKONTAKTE”

Valeria Vasilkova (v.vasilkova@spbu.ru), Natalia Legostaeva, Vladimir Radushevskii

Saint Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Citation: Vasilkova V., Legostaeva N., Radushevskii V. (2019) Tematicheskiy landshaft bot-prostranstva sotsial'noy seti «VKontakte» [Thematic Landscape of the Bot Space of the Social Network “VKontakte”]. Zhurnal sotsiologii i sotsialnoy antropologii [The Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology], 22(4): 202–245. https://doi.org/10.31119/jssa.2019.22.4.8 (in Russian).

Abstract. The authors propose to consider the phenomenon of social bots not only as one of the latest manipulative technologies, but on a larger scale –– as a new communicative technology of information influence in the space of social networks. This approach offers a new level of research –– the analysis of the thematic diversity of bots in the online network space, reflecting the desire of various social actors to expand their interests. This approach is realized in the authors' study on the identification and analysis of botnets of various thematic focuses in the Russian social network ‘VKontakte’. This article presents the methodology for identifying botnets in a certain period of time (February and October 2018) (1); the authors identified areas of the most intensive use of bot technologies in this network (2); the authors described the structural and functional features of social bots in various thematic areas (3). The authors' technique helped to detect 42 botnets in a given period and select the top 10 botnets by the maximum number of texts in a particular class of texts for a certain period. As a result, the authors identified areas of the most intensive use of bot technologies. These botnets were located in three thematic areas –– political, marketing, social activism. Moreover, in various thematic areas, botnets implement various functions: political bots provide information and mobilization functions, marketing bots represent information, PR, attracting clients functions, bots related to civic activism perform informing and mobilization functions, ensuring information transparency, civilian control over officials. As a result of the research, various actors were identified that operate in the bot space of the social network ‘VKontakte’: bot technologies are relevant for political parties, various companies and organizations, groups of civic activists, etc. The authors conclude on the limitations and prospects of the methods used in the study and their results for further study of the bot space of online social networks.

Keywords: social bots, bot functions, botnets, botnet structure, VKontakte social network, botnet detection technique.

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