Since tomorrow is “Super Tuesday”, secondary teachers may want to take advantage of the resource from PBS Learning Media called, “Bot or Not? How Fake Social Media Accounts Could Influence Voting.” This lesson plan includes a link to a 6-minute PBS News Hour video that explains how bots have been used in the past in social media – from making someone appear more popular to generating fake accounts that spread particular political agendas. Students are directed to a website that will analyze Twitter accounts to determine the likeliness of whether or not a user and/or their followers are bots. (I checked my own account, and discovered that I score a 0.3 out of 5 in bot-potential.) For their final project, students research issues that are meaningful to them, and invent their own “helper bot” to advocate for their selected issues.
The majority of your students are probably not current voter, but they most likely use social media. They may find it eye-opening to see how easy it is to purchase followers to mislead people about your popularity, and the extent to which bots are being used for propaganda. As Artificial Intelligence becomes more ubiquitous, it will become harder and harder to distinguish between real and fake accounts. If nothing else, this lesson will hopefully inspire your students to approach social media with a dose of cynicism.