With Twitter bots, the patterns tell the tale. This is true within botnets and it holds true when seemingly different botnets are, in fact, connected.
Pattern #1: Male and Female, Working Together
As we’ve shown before, some bot distributors separate accounts by gender-affiliated names. Thus, male accounts mostly follow the females and vice versa. The model bot followers clearly demonstrate this pattern.
Since we have male bots following female bots, the inverse (male bots following female bots) would need to be true for the pattern to hold. And it does.
And, make no mistake. These accounts almost exclusively follow one another, regardless of the account size (i.e., new male bots may have only a few hundred female bot followers, but older accounts can have tens of thousands of female bot followers). Here is a small sample of the female bot followers from just one male bot account.
Thus, the male-female pattern proves that the female model bots are connected to the male bots. But how closely are they tied?
Pattern #2: Follower Order
In addition to the male-female pattern, there is consistency in the follower order of networked accounts. In other words, when you look at the followers, you’ll see many of the same followers in a similar order across the botnet. Here are some of the male bot accounts with female model bot followers in near-identical order across the accounts.
So, not only are the female bots and male bots connected, but the follower pattern further indicates systematization.
Pattern #3: The Super Botnet Includes Other Types of Bots
While the female bots and their male counterparts have a variety of functions, they appear to be their own “kind” of bot. Just as Bitcoin bots, military bots, lottery bots, and Facebook Twitter bots, for example, appear to be their own “kind” of bots. But the follower pattern on the male-female super botnet proves that some of these seemingly disparate bots are connected to the super botnet.
Notice that these additional types of bots are just as consistent across the male-female super botnet as the male-female accounts themselves. There are just less of them. A few examples from the male-female botnet followers:
Publisher’s Clearing House Bots
So, in addition to following each other, the male-female super botnet also houses other botnets. Though the other botnets comprise a smaller percentage of the total followers, the pattern is unmistakable.
Pattern #4: Constant Creation
The super botnet’s patterns are so distinct that you can watch the constant influx of newly minted bot followers. When October 31 turns to November 1, within hours, a “November” creation date is listed on the newest batch of female bot followers. This is how we know that these accounts are created daily even though Twitter’s “Account Created” descriptor only labels by month.
A quick review:
Thus far, we have male and female bots tied to each other, tied to at least several other botnets, and systematically created every day.
This unimaginably large, multi-faceted, and interconnected botnet doesn’t stop there, however.
The Mother Lode is Global
The male-female botnet does not consist of American accounts alone. On the contrary, it consists of accounts from a variety of countries, including (but not limited to): Australia, England, Canada, France, and Germany.
And while the followers on these international accounts include male-female versions in their respective languages, they also share some of the bots seen in their American counterparts.
The first account in each sample group is American. The other two are international.
One Botnet to Rule Them All
If, as the pattern indicates, there is one entity (or several entities working in tandem) programming and implementing this large Twitter bot army, then Twitter’s negligence in ridding the platform of these accounts is far more egregious than commonly thought.
In a world in which social media manipulation continues to impact democracies across the globe, it appears that Twitter users are stuck with a super botnet that fills political accounts’ followers and creates its own political accounts.
Whether the super botnet’s accounts manipulate political views, disseminate misinformation, steal data, defraud users, or provide false social media engagement and amplification (or all of the above), the sheer number of them guarantees that real users are in harm’s way. And they will remain in harm’s way until government regulation steps into the 21st-century.
Written by Virginia Murr
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