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Huge Cache of Twitter Bots Unearthed

Paul Rubens - January 24, 2017 - 10:44 AM
Huge Cache of Twitter Bots Unearthed
Researchers in the U.K. have discovered two mysterious networks of fake Twitter accounts.

(CCM) — Two mysterious networks of fake Twitter accounts have been discovered by researchers in the U.K., according to a BBC report. One network consists of 350,000 fake accounts, and another network that the researchers are still investigating may include more than half a million accounts. These could be used to send spam, boost interest in trending topics, dilute chatter about controversial subjects, or provide followers for other account owners. Such accounts, known as bots, are controlled remotely by "botmasters," who often charge a fee to deliver a service such as providing a thousand new followers to another Twitter user's account. "Suddenly we feel vulnerable and don't know much: how many more are there? What do they want to do?" Dr Shi Zhou, an academic who oversaw the research at University College, London, told the BBC.

The researchers identified the first network of bots because all of the fake accounts shared characteristics that gave away the fact that they were linked. This included tweeting from places where nobody lives, only posting from Windows phones, and almost exclusively including quotes from Star Wars novels in their tweets. A Twitter spokesman told the BBC that users are not allowed to write programs that automatically follow accounts or "favorite" tweets in bulk, adding that the company has a clear policy on automation that is "strictly enforced."

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