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Social media bots may have fuelled the GameStop stock frenzy

Bots on major social media platforms have been hyping up GameStop and other “meme” stocks, according to an analysis by Massachusetts-based cybersecurity company PiiQ Media, suggesting organized economic or foreign actors may have played a role in the Reddit-driven trading frenzy.

Shares in GameStop soared last month after Reddit users banded together to squeeze hedge funds that had bet against the video game retailer and other companies. Reddit Chief Executive Steve Huffman told Congress this month that bots, artificial or fake accounts with automated content, had not played a “significant role” in GameStop Reddit message traffic.

PiiQ Media’s analysis of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube posts, however, found that bots used the platforms to push GameStop and other “meme” stocks, although it is unclear how influential they were in the overall saga.

It’s not certain who’s behind the bots, or how effective they’ve been. Reddit chief Steve Huffman told Congress at a hearing that he didn’t think bots played a “significant role” in the stock buying spree, although his ability to track bots outside of Reddit is limited.

The new findings may raise concerns all the same. While the Reddit activity appears to have been aimed at punishing short sellers and otherwise riding a wave of hype (much to the chagrin of some investors), the bots raise the possibility that malicious actors either piggybacked on the GameStop campaign or could manipulate the market in the future. Social sites might have to step up their efforts to remove bots going forward.

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