The researchers found something groundbreaking when they filtered out the bots.
Trump won the numbers game by far: Users sent 1,762,012 pro-Trump tweets over the three-day period, and only 612,732 pro-Clinton tweets. But according to the researchers, almost a third of those pro-Trump tweets were sent by bots — not real people.
By contrast, only one-fifth of the pro-Clinton tweets were sent by automated accounts.
"One of the things Donald Trump does all the time is talk about how popular he is on Twitter," Woolley said. "…But it's pretty easy, doing a little bit of analysis, to show that well over half of his followers are actually automated, fake profiles made to look like real people."
So why should we care about a bunch of bots that live online?
Because they could determine the course of the election.
"We think that political bots are one of the newest and most pervasive forms of manipulating public opinion," Woolley told Revelist. "It's a new way to manipulate the statistics that get presented in the news; it's a way to trick advertisers and supporters into thinking someone is more popular than they already are; it's a way of doing multiple different very suspect things."
A large Twitter following, for example, can convince the racist or sexist organizations that endorse Trump that their opinion is supported — even if most of those supporters are robots. An army of pro-Trump robots can also flood Democratic hashtags and take over the conversation.
What remains to be seen, however, is whether they can take over an election.