Elon Musk has vowed to defeat spam bots on Twitter, but what are they: Explained

Billionaire Elon Musk unveiled his $44 billion takeover plan for Twitter on Friday.

Musk, who has made weeding out fake Twitter accounts and spam bots central to his acquisition plan, said if he buys the social media platform, he will “beat the spam bots or die trying.”

He has consistently blamed the company’s over-reliance on advertising for the relentless proliferation of spam bots.

Twitter, like other social media companies, has fought spam bots in recent years with software that detects and blocks them.

So what are spam bots and what counts as a fake Twitter account?

Spam bots or fake accounts are designed to manipulate or artificially boost activity on social media platforms like Twitter.

If accounts on the platform engage in “mass, aggressive, or deceptive activities designed to mislead people,” then according to the company’s policies, those activities are considered platform manipulation.

Overlapping accounts with similar content, bulk account registrations, use of automated or coordinated accounts to create fake interactions, and follower trading are listed as violations of Twitter’s spam policy.

A Twitter poll conducted in four countries showed that users’ top concern was the existence of “too many bots or fake accounts”.

How does Twitter detect fake accounts?

Twitter has a team that identifies real people and robots on its platform. The company uses machine learning and investigators to identify patterns of malicious activity.

The algorithms search 5 to 10 million accounts per week.

However, Twitter allows parody, news feed, comment, and fan accounts as long as they disclose the nature of the account in the bio.

What does Twitter do with fake accounts?

If Twitter detects a fake account, it may suspend the account or request verification. If there are multiple accounts, the user may be asked to keep one.

Are all bots bad?

Twitter doesn’t consider all bots bad and has introduced a label to mark the good bots.

“Who doesn’t love a handful of robots promising not to rise up against us?” The company’s Twitter Safety Handle tweeted in September last year.

Good bots allow automated accounts to share useful information like updates on COVID-19 updates and traffic.

“Knowing who is real is fundamental to the integrity of the internet,” said Tamer Hassan, CEO of cybersecurity firm HUMAN.

“When it comes to managing the threat that sophisticated bots pose to businesses, most businesses try not to lose. Defensive strategies focus on minimizing damage rather than playing to win.”

Why does Musk hate spam bots?

Musk, a self-proclaimed free speech absolutist, wants Twitter to become a forum for free speech, which he says is “the bedrock of a functioning democracy,” and sees spam bots as a threat to that idea.

In a recent TedX interview, Musk said his top priority is to remove “bot armies” on Twitter by calling out bots promoting crypto-based scams on Twitter.

“They make the product much worse. If I had a dogecoin for every crypto scam I see, we would have 100 billion dogecoins.”

© Thomson Reuters 2022 Elon Musk has vowed to defeat spam bots on Twitter, but what are they: Explained

Ryan Sederquist

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