In the wake of Elon Musk pulling out of his Twitter purchase due to the hesitation of social media giant to share information about bot accounts, it is natural to ask, “What are they?” What do they do, and why are they so important that Hillary Clinton partially blamed her 2016 election loss on Russian bots?
In late April, Twitter estimated that fake accounts and spam “accounted for less than 5 percent of its daily active users in the fourth quarter of 2021.” However, with a user base of at least 330 million, that’s still an awful lot of non-human accounts (16.5 million for the math-challenged). Musk believes the figure is much higher and Twitter denies it.
Elon Musk says he’s not buying Twitter for $44 billion because of all the bots & fake accounts. Twitter claims it is suing Musk to force him to buy Twitter. It’s possible that a lower price will be negotiated before everything is finalized here.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) July 8, 2022
“Bot” is evidently derived from the term “robot”, and may also be called a fake account or spam account, as well as a Twitterbot. Although each one may have a different name or function, they all share the same basic idea: They are little robots. However, these robots don’t have physical forms. They are computer codes that interact with social media like real people. It’s not actually a suburban hottie, sipping white wine, who’s tweeting you; it’s a Russian dude in his underwear who’s simultaneously tweeting to 5,000 other people.
The Washington Post describes the scourge:
On Twitter, bots are automated accounts that can do the same things as real human beings: send out tweets, follow other users, and like and retweet postings by others. Spam bots can use this information to deceive, harm, and frustrate users.
For example, an automated commercial system might continue to send out tweets that appear to be from someone real, but were actually sent by a computer. Although they might claim to offer you great deals or freebies, in fact, the scammers will try to seize your cash.
Here is something you might be surprised to learn: Twitter allows bots, but account creators must indicate when they are automated. It’s an automated Twitter reminder system, so “@tinycarebot”, is permissible. There’s nothing malicious about it. Spam bots that continuously send out unwelcome information are prohibited. Twitter will immediately shut down accounts that are reported by users.
Bots can also be used to help celebrities and influencers gain large followings. These can often be identified by looking at the ratio of “follower to-likes”. If an account is averaging hundreds of thousands and only receiving a handful of likes per tweet then it could indicate that many are fake.
High-profile people don’t always actively seek out fake followers. One estimate indicates that Elon Musk himself has around 23 percent fake fans, although Joe Biden handily beats him in the department–Newsweek claims that almost half of his tens of millions of devotees are bots.
In elections, bots can tweet out literally millions of fake-news spam messages, claiming everything from “Hillary is an Alien” to “Trump is actually a God from Asgard.” I personally find it hard to believe that such garbage would influence many people, but many experts disagree with me on that one.
Here are some robots in action. It’s amazing!
Yesterday, an online media outlet published an article about Elon Musk @elonmusk personal life and a person close to him. The articles were met with thousands of insults, harassment and threats by users as well as malicious bots. You can watch the
Here’s what happened. A thread pic.twitter.com/ukyGydQWxj
— Andrea Stroppa (@Andst7) July 8, 2022
Elon responded to this thread on Twitter Friday, writing, “Interesting. What is the source of the bot attack ?”
Bots and spam emails, computerized telephone calls, Nigerian inheritance scams and other online problems are all a part of the internet’s bane. Musk isn’t concerned about them being annoying. He is concerned that bots, fake accounts, automated phone calls, Nigerian inheritance scams, and spam emails lower Twitter’s value, which is why he bought the company at a high price. Because a significant number of Twitter users are bots, there’s less real people for advertisers to reach. If the truth were out, they would be able to lower the company’s value. Musk is also concerned that fake accounts and bots will reduce the user experience, and that he won’t get the growth that he desires if the users are unhappy with the platform.
Although it is hard to believe, one of the most important tech deals in the past decade may have been killed by the invisible demons.