Home Health Finding bots on Twitter is difficult, but not impossible: that’s how it is done

Finding bots on Twitter is difficult, but not impossible: that’s how it is done

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Finding bots on Twitter is difficult, but not impossible: that’s how it is done

Tra Elon Musk e buying Twitter there seems to be a handful involved – how much is fed? That’s the crux of the matter – of bots. Tesla’s CEO has in fact suspended the purchase of the social network because he is unable to verify the percentage of fake users on the platform. Net of Musk’s true objectives and the controversy, that of bots is an extremely important topic, which, on Twitter in particular, has been talked about for many years.

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What are bots and why are they important

Let’s start from the beginning. When referring to a bot on Twitter, we mean a type of software that controls, in part or in whole, an account. This program can, in other words, autonomously perform some of the actions available on the platform, such as posting tweets or retweets, like or follow another user. Bots, of course, are programmed according to a series of rules, they have some objectives, perhaps interacting with all the contents that have a certain keyword inside.

For Musk, bots are important because they don’t allow you to define a true commercial value of Twitter. After all, a social platform has advertising as a model of business: if I am unable to define how many humans the ads reach, how can I determine an economic value of that digital space?


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Within Twitter, however, bots also have a more practical value. They are used to create attention, interest, around a theme, an account, a hashtag. In essence, these software exploit the rules of the social network – and circumvent its prohibitions – to favor someone or something. An example can be useful to understand the mechanism. Let’s imagine we want to promote a cause that is particularly close to our hearts. To finish in the column of Trending Topic, Twitter takes into account the number of times a certain topic or hashtag occurs, favoring those who earn a lot of tweets in a short time. Here, if we were able to create a group of bots that publish content using that keyword, we would have a greater chance of ending up in trend. It is this type of behavior, and not automation per se, that is prohibited on Twitter. according to a blog post on the platform published in 2020.

Elon Musk e i bot

It is a dynamic that, according to a book released in 2019 in the US called Bubbles and Crashes: The Boom and Bust of Technological Innovation, Musk should know well. Within the essay, Brent Goldfarb and David A. Kirsch tell how, in 2013, a series of account Twitter automated systems have helped to change the public perception of Tesla who, at that time, was experiencing a time that was not exactly positive.

Specifically, the 8 accounts researched would have sent in 7 years about 30,000 tweets with positive sentiment about Tesla. A drop in the ocean which, however, according to the two American professors, would have had a concrete contribution in the reversal of the narrative that would have favored the increase in the company’s market value.

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How to find a bot?

In short, bots have been an integral part of Twitter, since the early years. And they are also because it is very difficult to find them, even through automated tools. He explained it well, in response to Elon Musk, the current CEO of the social network of the bird Parag Agrawal who, in a thread, underlined how it is extremely difficult to locate the accounts automated, not least because many real users only appear to be bots on the surface. For this reason, Twitter relies not only on artificial intelligence tools, but also on a human review, which is conducted every quarter on a randomized basis.

As with content moderation, in short, the battle is a complex one. After all, each of us will have happened, at least once, to think that that account on Twitter could be run by a bot. Here, to remove the doubt there is a tool available online called Botometer. Just enter an account name to receive a score from 1 to 5 in response. That number indicates the likelihood that that user is a bot: the closer it gets to 5, the more likely it is that the account is automated.

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Botometer works through an algorithm that, in short, compares the behavior of bots established with those of the accounts that are given in input. How many tweets do you post? How many fake followers do you have? How many political contents does it share and then delete? These are some of the features that the tool takes into consideration.

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Analysis, of course, has its limitations and demonstrates the difficulty of ascertaining the number of bots on Twitter. So much so that, last week, by entering the @elonmusk account, the software returned a disturbing 4/5. In other words, Musk himself would behave just like a bot. Currently, the score has dropped to a more reassuring 1.4, probably following an intervention by the programmers. But the debate is all still there. How do you really make sure that an account is not a bot? You can’t, at least not with mathematical certainty.

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