Rote AI bots are plentiful and easy enough for most Twitter users to identify at a glance. They tend to tweet repetitively and on a schedule. In other words, these fake Twitter accounts lack sophistication.
But fake Twitter accounts have been developing for years. Those who run the fake accounts have tweaked their strategies as they receive new information. What are real users identifying and reporting? What is more likely to dupe a real user? In this game of psychological Twister, fake Twitter accounts are far more sophisticated than most casual users would think.
One of the difficulties of explaining how sophisticated fake Twitter accounts are becoming is that we need visually obvious examples that still capture the development of the accounts. For this reason, I have chosen to use what I call “model bots.” Model bots use the same pictures across thousands of accounts, making them visually identifiable. Even though these are low-level, fake Twitter accounts, they show clear signs of sophistication.
Fake Twitter Accounts Use Video
You get a new follower and do a quick-scan of it’s timeline. While there aren’t many tweets, there are a number of pictures of the person and a video. In a normal world, these would be convincing markers of a real account. But Twitter is not part of a normal world.
While that video is quite real, the account is not. And neither are the thousands of other accounts that use this model’s identify.
There are countless model bots and countless examples. Here’s just one more example.
Again, we have a real video of a real person; but this is a fake account.
Horrifically, the woman in the video had her pictures hacked and spread online when she was young teen. After years of struggling against the spread of those pictures and the cyber-bullying, she became an “Instagram model” who also has a verified Twitter account.
Fake Twitter Accounts Have “Kids”
Yes, you read that correctly. Fake Twitter accounts have kids. They don’t just claim to have kids; they show pictures of “their kids.” Here is another model bot seen across thousands of Twitter accounts.
And, here is the same model on another fake account. This time, however, there are kids in the pictures.
A couple more examples:
This model bot has kids in the background photo and a video.
Fake Accounts Plagiarize Real Users’ Tweets
A popular flag of a fake account is poor grammar. While this is true, some of the fake accounts plagiarize tweets, which makes the accounts appear as if they use proper English. This account, for example, plagiarized Donald Trump.
This pro-Trump bot plagiarized a tweet critical of the Emmy Awards. Just 12 minutes after the original tweet.
Pictured with Pets
One of the more recent developments in the bot program, presumably to “humanize” the fake accounts, is to post pictures of and with animals.
Fake Accounts Use Pictures with Multiple People
Another sophistication in the fake accounts is the use of pictures with multiple people. Why multiple people? Because a person with family and friends is much more likely to seem legitimate to a real user.
Fake Accounts Claim Twitter has Taken Their Followers
Yes, fake accounts have utilized user dissatisfaction with Twitter’s arbitrary TOS enforcement. Claims of shadow-banning, suspension, and loss of followers is becoming more common in the fake accounts.
This particular fake (pro-Trump) account claims Twitter disposed of more than 160,000 of its followers.
But the account was created in July 2019. 160,000 in just two months? Not likely. And then there’s this. The fake account plagiarized claim from another pro-Trump account’s profile description.
The Fake Accounts will Continue to Develop
The examples above are a clear indication of the sophistication of thought behind even low-level fake Twitter accounts. The higher up the food-chain you go (from bots to cyborgs to trolls), the more sophisticated the accounts become.
The bot program is serious business politically and commercially. As long as Twitter continues to allow fake accounts on its platform, the creators of the fake accounts have every reason to improve their product. And, improving their product means figuring out how to better deceive real users.
Written by Virginia Murr
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