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Twitter bots are trying to silence Mexican protesters

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Many activists thrive on Twitter, both to get their messages heard and to coordinate their on-the-ground action. However, it looks like there's a growing, sophisticated effort to dismantle Mexican anti-corruption and anti-violence protests through the same social network. Journalists have noticed that Twitter-based bots are trying to drown out Mexican activists' posts, issue death threats and promote counter-protest messages. They've been present as far back as 2012, when bogus accounts backed President Enrique Peña Nieto during his election campaign, but they've kicked into high gear following the September 2014 disappearance of 43 students that sparked a massive outcry.

There isn't firm evidence as to who's behind these bots, but the focus on the anti-government camp suggests that it's the Peña Nieto administration silencing critics. That could make it difficult to overcome this attempt to protect the status quo, especially since Twitter has so far pledged to deal with pro-government abuse only when people report it. If there's any consolation, it's that Twitter's emphases on unique posts and personal connections should bring the most important tweets to the forefront -- demonstrators can push back against the bots simply by acting like humans.

[Image credit: AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo]

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