Up to 60% of Twitter accounts are fake (not including dormant accts).
Since Twitter hasn’t gotten rid of the bots, we think users should have an idea of what the fake accounts look like. This article will give practical tips on how to spot the bots.
First—a caution. It is important to remember to look for MULTIPLE flags. Individually, the flags are rarely enough to condemn an account. For example, a long series of numbers at the end of a handle is a “flag” that the account may be a bot. Like this bot, for example:
But there are REAL accounts that have a series of numbers in their handles. So, assess for multiple flags.
Keeping that in mind, the 1st thing to know about bots is that they are often created in groups—so they have similar patterns across the accounts. Here’s an example:
Notice the accounts share:
- The same tweets
- A short phrase in the profile
- Similar tweet numbers
- Similar following/follower numbers
- Similar creation dates
- Many of the same followers/following accounts
The accounts in a group will often follow each other. Sometimes the follows are sequential, but sometimes they are spread out.
And, while the bot group may appear innocuous, take a close look at the following/followers. Do you think this account from the example bot group will remain innocuous?
While these bots may seem obvious when viewed in a group, they become much harder to identify once they are scattered into hundreds of millions of Twitter accounts.
This brings us back to the flags.
- The profile picture is of a person you’ve seen on the profiles of other accounts. We refer to these bots as “model bots.”
2. The account is not new—but it has zero tweets.
3. The account numbers (tweets, following, followers) are severely skewed.
4. American accounts with nonsensical grammar, spelling, etc.
5. Accounts with two first names.
6. Accounts with a first male name and a first female name.
7. The profile description is the name on the account.
8. Inexplicably, a lot of bots use profile pics of someone driving a car.
9. The profile gives personal information that normal people wouldn’t announce—such as claiming to be a bank manager.
10. The account’s Timeline doesn’t match the account creation date. These bot accounts are either:
- purchased (they’re available on the black market for cheap)
- created as bots but have remained dormant until the bot creators activated them, or
- are hacked accounts
11. The account’s Timeline has repetitive tweets and/or sketchy offers.
12. The account’s first followers are filled with bots. To see first followers you need to be on Twitter for desktop. Mobile versions do not show followers in order.
13. Follow Back Accounts—these are mostly infested with bots. Many are fake accounts themselves.
Until Twitter cleans up its platform, we think it is important to stay vigilant against the fake accounts. We already know the kind of damage these fake accounts can do. Let’s not give them another chance.
And make no mistake. Some of these accounts may appear harmless on the surface. But, as a shell, the fakes can be weaponized as they are (via amplification retweets, likes, etc.) or, within a couple of minutes, the bot owners can simply change the profile and, if necessary, delete old tweets.
From the NY Times: “The Fake Americans Russia Created to Influence the Election.”
And a warning from FBI Director Christopher Wray that the cyber-war being waged through fake accounts on social media has gone “virtually unabated.”
Just a Note. As bots are being created in a way that makes them look much more real, keep this in mind:
- Good Accounts
- Bad Accounts (Bots, Trolls, etc.) that we can identify
- Accounts that are bad for you–(This is the most important category)
If an account adds nothing to your Twitter Experience—if it is not going to make your messaging or learning experience better—then consider just soft-blocking. Soft-blocking is done by blocking and then unblocking. It simply removes the follower from following you.
Written by Unhackthevote