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Report: Up To 15% Of Twitter Accounts Are Bots ( 50

A team of researchers claim they can identify Twitter account activity that's posted by bots through their new web portal -- "Bot or Not?" -- leveraging "more than a thousand features extracted from public data and meta-data." And it turns out there are a lot of bots. An anonymous reader writes: "A study released by the University of Southern California reports that roughly nine to 15 percent of Twitter accounts...are so-called bots controlled by software instead of humans," according to CBS News. "Twitter boasts 319 monthly active users meaning that this recent revelation equates to nearly 48 million bot accounts, according the university's high-end figure." CNBC adds that "The research could be troubling news for Twitter, which has struggled to grow its user base in the face of growing competition from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and others." In a 2014 SEC filing Twitter admitted that between 5 and 8% of their users were bots.
Twitter's response to this new report? "Many bot accounts are extremely beneficial, like those that automatically alert people of natural disasters ... or from customer service points of view."
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Report: Up To 15% Of Twitter Accounts Are Bots

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  • by peetm ( 781139 )

    Mine @peetm is partly a bot - tweeking for me.

  • 319 monthly users (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Calydor ( 739835 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @02:41PM (#54018923)

    'Nuff said.

  • Some people are saying that @realDonaldTrump is definitely a bot. But I wouldn't want to tell you that, you'll have to make your own mind up about it.

    • Some people are saying that @realDonaldTrump is definitely a bot. But I wouldn't want to tell you that, you'll have to make your own mind up about it.

      yup []

    • Some people are saying that @realDonaldTrump is definitely a bot. But I wouldn't want to tell you that, you'll have to make your own mind up about it.

      That's an insult to bots.

    • by gnick ( 1211984 )

      Some people are saying that @realDonaldTrump is definitely a bot.

      No bot is that unpredictable.

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      I'm pretty sure that it has real ppl behind it although maybe not the Real Donald. I know that most of the bots on twitter follow him though. The minute something is posted on that account it gets hundred of responses both negative and positive. They're almost all repetitive word for word each time with only the most minor of differences.

      • So I'm not very innovative, creative, and original.

        Fuck Trump

        RT: Fuck Trump

        Rinse, repeat.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        I have not seen many of the tweets but the few that I have come across rerererepeated across the internet, whilst I doubt very stronly they were typed in by Trump, every indication is they most definately were dictated by Trump.

        Bots on twitter mean the death of Twitter, it will fill full of marketdroid bots, public relations bullshit bots and government propaganda bots, talking to each, generating hits so that twitter can scam advertisers into spending money on nothing, those bots are buying nothing.


        • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

          You believe in the Easter Bunny too? Every single type of social media on the internet has succumbed to some form of SPAM. Even Fidonet when I operated on Bulletin Boards in the days before widespread internet availability had some problems in this regard. Usenet and IRC fell to it and now the social media in this Era are being dragged under by it. Anonymity makes it impossible to control.

    • It's a better bot than anyone else. The best bot. Not like the other bots. So sad.


  • My system posts to twitter accounts automatically. I don't know if these are considered "bots" - they just post community alerts (weather and stuff), and that's all. However, I have noticed that within seconds of when my system tweets a URL, that URL is hit by upwards of 20 times (not by twitter) within a couple seconds. I presume these are the "bots" in question. Further, that happens to accounts that I just set up that don't even have any followers yet.

    • Leverage that for sweet Google ad money. IIRC that's a penny for each 5 tweets. Setup bots to send 500,000 tweets/day and you're set.

    • Why don't you think your "system" isn't a bot?

      And yeah, maybe those things hitting your web site after your bot tweets are bots too.

      Some account has bots listening, that get your bot's tweets, posted from an account that has no followers? I'm not sure I understand that. Do the posts have hashtags? Could they be searching for those?

    • by EvilSS ( 557649 )
      Want to have fun? Tweet out "retweet to win a (something obviously bogus here)" with some giveaway hastags and watch the bots pour in. Some people actually make decent hauls with giveaway bots on twitter.
    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      That classifies as a bot. If it operates without direct involvement. I used to have multiple bots on IRC channels that performed certain automatic tasks.

  • by PuddleBoy ( 544111 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @03:12PM (#54019077)

    OK, so the summary says that Twitter boasts 319 monthly active users.

    One of them is Trump.

    At least 316 are hardcore Trump supporters.

    Who are these other two?

  • by Lorens ( 597774 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @03:37PM (#54019185) Journal

    Only 15%? That should be *good* news for twitter! Unless it's 15% of 319 monthly active users, of course.

    (Spoiler: TFA title is 48M bots, which gives 319M users).

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      15% of "users", but what percent of tweets are from bots? As I understand it, most users only post one or two tweets and give up on it.
  • Not a bad thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by darkain ( 749283 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @03:49PM (#54019245) Homepage

    This honestly isn't a bad thing. To a huge degree, Twitter has replaced RSS as a simplistic syndication service. For example: I follow @slashdot on Twitter. This account is a bot, not a human. The entire feed are headline posts from Slashdot's front page with links to the articles. Opening Twitter allows me to see Slashdot headlines intermixed with other headlines from other automated aggregate services which I follow. I personally believe that Twitter should embrace this type of connectivity further rather than only focus on human users.

  • by dav1dc ( 2662425 )

    Seems kind of low to me... I would have expected that number to be much higher. Perhaps they are just being overly conservative with their confidence interval. ^_^

    • by Alumoi ( 1321661 )

      Erm.. sorry folks, it was a typo. The tile should read 'Up To 15% Of Twitter Accounts Are Not Bots '

  • With a better bot detection, twitter could stop flagging new registered accounts after the first few minutes and then requiring a mobile number to continue.

  • Intentionally putting in wrong stuff now, in order to get people to check and/or reply to point out the error?
  • They're the ones that can type legibly.

  • I'd bet a dollar that the bulk of Twitter readers are also bots that look for keywords and trends; actual people interact with that data only via pie charts and summaries. Sure, a few accounts like Trump are actually followed by real people but that's a minority.

  • I'm shocked at this number. Only 15%?

  • Number of bots owned by marketing and PR firms, probably make up between 25 and 40%. 15% is the rock bottom number. Keep in mind we're counting active monthly users, not total.

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