University of Southern California said unproven health claims coming from pro-marijuana bots on Twitter illustrate “how false statements may drown out solid science on social media”
Cannabis Surveillance With Twitter Data: Emerging Topics and Social Bots
Published Online: December 2019
Objectives. To use publicly accessible data from people who post to Twitter to rapidly capture and describe the public’s recent experiences with cannabis.
Methods. We obtained Twitter posts containing cannabis-related terms from May 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018. We used methods to distinguish between posts from social bots and nonbots. We used text classifiers to identify topics in posts (n = 60 861).
Results. Prevalent topics of posts included using cannabis with mentions of cannabis initiation, processed cannabis products, and health and medical with posts suggesting that cannabis could help with cancer, sleep, pain, anxiety, depression, trauma, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Polysubstance use was a common topic with mentions of cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, LSD, meth, mushrooms, and Xanax along with cannabis. Social bots regularly made health claims about cannabis.
Conclusions. Findings suggest that processed cannabis products, unsubstantiated health claims about cannabis products, and the co-use of cannabis with legal and illicit substances warrant considerations by public health researchers in the future. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print December 19, 2019: e1–e6. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2019.305461)