Social media bots may be behind a number of annoying comments in order to gain followers to sell a product but a recent study suggests bots are also being used on social media to sway political opinions.

In the annual Freedom of the Net study, Freedom House found that at least 20 countries used political bots, while 30 paid human commentators and 16 created fake news stories.

The study underlined a number of different misuses of social media tech, saying that in at least 18 countries, that misuse was centered around elections.

Like the annoying but less destructive commercial bots, these computer-driven accounts will retweet posts or share links to gain a larger reach than an actual person could.

In one case in Mexico, around 75,000 bots were used to tweet a distracting hashtag once a protest or government scandal became a trending topic.

With so many fake accounts tweeting with different hashtags, those popular hashtags among real people fell off the trending section, curbing their influence.

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