How To Identify A Twitter Bot

A Twitter bot is a tool designed and used by scammers to penetrate social media accounts and, at times, steal your personal information. Twitter bots are typically known for spreading fake news. An example would be an account claiming that they have the COVID-19 cure. Twitter bots are involved in despicable activities such as propagating misinformation to cause panic among people and spread malware. Therefore, it is essential to know what Twitter bots are and how to spot one, to shield your personal information and device from attacks.

What Are Twitter Bots, And What Activities Can They Perform?

Twitter bots, also called zombies, are Twitter accounts that receive instructions from the bot’s software. Even though they can operate as a genuine Twitter account, they are programmed to tweet and retweet specific content to achieve particular goals. These goals can be good or harmful. Twitter bots help broadcast important information to the masses, like weather emergencies and other dangers. They can also come up with real-time automated replies to messages.

They also have a downside. These accounts can also be programmed with malicious goals. They include intimidation and manipulation of the public or an individual, and these are done through spreading misinformation and spamming sock-puppets, among other activities that violate one’s privacy. It is pretty tricky for one malicious Twitter bot to cause damage; hence, Twitter bots accounts are usually part of a botnet.

A botnet can be described as an extensive network of automated accounts that operate in ways to suggest that they are legitimate. They follow and like each other to archive this elusion. It is important to note that bots are not only restricted to Twitter; they also operate on other social media platforms.

Twitter’s bot’s greatest strength is stealth. They can like and comment on your tweets by pretending to be genuine Twitter users. These accounts can also appear as malicious bots intimidating, bullying, or inciting you to believe information that might be false or biased. Cybercriminals use Twitter bots to distribute harmful content containing malware to the masses on Twitter in real-time. It is, therefore, vital that you avoid clicking links in tweets from apprehensive Twitter accounts.

Twitter bots also spread political propaganda and try to influence elections. Individuals or countries with malicious intentions might use these accounts to spread fear or misinformation, thus affecting elections, financial and healthcare systems, and community actions.

How Many Are There?

It is pretty challenging to say the number of Twitter bots available in the Twittersphere. However, a study by Carnegie Mellon University reported an increase in Twitter bots in the US since issuing the stay-at-home order. The study also found out that about half of the accounts urging the government to open up might be bots.

A study of circa 200 million tweets as from January, 2020 pertaining coronavirus shows that 50 of their top retweets were not real Twitter users but bots. An essential lesson you should learn from this is that you should not believe information carried on every tweet, as some might be a campaign to spread misinformation.

How Do I Identify A Twitter Bot?

Remember that Twitter’s bot activity is usually automated. Here are some of the key ways to help you identify a Twitter bot:

  • IP correlation; the location of the Twitter account
  • Time-based correlation; releasing of tweets with very close time proximity
  • Automation; an account with tweets or replies that seem automated
  • Account creation; you should beware of a recently created Twitter account
  • Account activity; the account tweets and retweets at speeds that are not normal for a human.

Twitter’s Take

Twitter has some regulations that try to combat malicious activities by bots. The following are some of the activities that are illegal on the platform.

  • Twitter doesn’t allow automation that is intended to cause harm to the public conversation
  • Creation of several accounts to spread information
  • Aggressive Twitter use
  • Using hashtags to spam other users.

Even more, Twitter suspends bots accounts in their millions each month.

Your Responsibility as A Twitter User

It is essential to be aware and cautioned about the activities carried out by Twitter bots. Always remember to keep an eye on the red flags mentioned above. Lastly, visit known and reputable sites to confirm any information you see on Twitter.

Image Source: Adobe Stock

Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.