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The dangers of misinformation spreading on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic are known.1 However, software that allows individuals to generate automated content and share it via counterfeit accounts (or “bots”)2 to amplify misinformation has been overlooked, including how automated software can be used to disseminate original research while undermining scientific communication.
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Accepted for Publication: April 15, 2021.
Published Online: June 7, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.2498
Corresponding Author: John W. Ayers, PhD MA; #333 CRSF 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093 (email@example.com).
Author Contributions: Drs Ayers and Broniatowski had full access to all of the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.
Concept and design: All authors.
Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: Ayers, Chu, Zhu, Leas, Smith, Broniatowski.
Drafting of the manuscript: Ayers, Chu, Zhu, Leas, Smith, Broniatowski.
Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.
Statistical analysis: Chu, Leas, Broniatowski.
Obtained funding: Smith.
Administrative, technical, or material support: Chu, Smith, Dredze, Broniatowski.
Supervision: Smith, Dredze, Broniatowski.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Ayers reported owning equity in Directing Medicine, Health Watcher, and Good Analytics outside the submitted work. Dr Leas reported receiving consulting fees from Health Watcher and Good Analytics for similar work outside the context of these analyses. Dr Smith reported an endowment from the John and Mary Tu Foundation Endowment and grants from the National Institutes of Health during the conduct of the study and consulting fees from FluxErgy, Bayer, Arena Pharmaceuticals, and Linear Therapies outside the submitted work. Dr Dredze reported personal fees from Bloomberg LP and Good Analytics outside the submitted work. No other disclosures were reported.
Funding/Support: This work was supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, National Institutes of Health grant AI036214, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to the George Washington University Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics, and The John and Mary Tu Foundation.
Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The funding organizations had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.
Data Sharing Statement: The data used in the study are public in nature and are available from CrowdTangle. CrowdTangle prohibits providing raw data to anyone outside of a CrowdTangle user’s account. Anyone with a CrowdTangle account may access these corresponding data. Researchers may request CrowdTangle access at https://help.crowdtangle.com/en/articles/4302208-crowdtangle-for-academics-and-researchers.
Additional Contributions: We appreciate discussions and editing with Benjamin M. Althouse, PhD, ScM (Gates Foundation), Alicia Nobles, PhD (University of California, San Diego) and Christopher Longhurst MD (University of California San Diego). They were not compensated for their contributions.
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