Nearly 48 million Twitter accounts are bots
A new study has estimated that as many as 48 million of Twitter’s users or up to 15 percent of active Twitter accounts on the microblogging website are so-called “bots” rather than people.
“Bots” are just software programs, designed to do everything a normal person on Twitter would do, including following other accounts and liking and retweeting certain messages.
In order to identify bot accounts on Twitter, researchers from University of Southern California (USC) and Indiana University in the U.S. used over 1,000 features in categories including friends, tweet content and sentiment and time between tweets.
“Our estimates suggest that between 9 percent and 15 percent of active Twitter accounts are bots,” they said.
Since, Twitter now has 319 million monthly active users that transforms to nearly 48 million bot accounts, using USC’s high-end estimate, reported CNBC.
A spokesperson from Twitter told CNBC that while bots may have negative connotations, “many bot accounts are extremely beneficial, like those that automatically alert people of natural disasters … or from customer service points of view.”
In February, Twitter estimated in a SEC filing that up to 8.5 percent of its users were not human, while the USC study’s authors say even its estimate of 15 percent is “conservative.”
“Many social bots perform useful functions, such as dissemination of news and publications,” however, “there is a growing record of malicious applications of social bots,” they said.
However, the USC report also points to the shortcoming of bots, saying that “there is a growing record of malicious applications of social bots. Some emulate human behavior to manufacture fake grassroots political support … [and] promote terrorist propaganda and recruitment.”
Twitter now has many other ways to account for violations, including impersonation accounts and spam. Also, several services occur which claim to be able to audit followers and categorize fake accounts.
Additionally, in the battle to fight online harassment, Twitter says users can silence notifications from accounts that have unconfirmed email address, phone number or profile picture that uses the default “egg” icon.