All A-Twitter about Bots

Twitter announced this week that around 23 million of their users are bots, not actual humans. That’s a whole lot of fake profiles. Which brings up a question that a lot of folks have; what exactly is a bot? We hear of them taking over apps, and invading websites, but there’s still some confusion on what they are. For starters, “bot” is short for “internet robot” and the short definition is “a software application that has the ability to take over and run automated tasks through the internet.” So bots start out good. They can do things like patrol websites and do helpful things like check product reviews for profanity, count negative reviews that need attention etc, all at a much faster rate than a human. Bots are only considered bad when they are used for what’s considered “malicious purposes,” meaning that they are taking over an application for a destructive reason. They are mostly used for creating false profiles on social media websites, trying to entice a user to click on a link that will direct you to either a porn site or some other shady fraudulent site. There are even particularly evil spambots that are able to crack passwords, and once they gain access, can really turn into a headache. This is where they gain control over your accounts and start spamming all of your contacts.

The issue with bots having such a large presence on websites like Twitter is that they are giving a misrepresentation of how many users a site actually has. This affects advertisers mostly, as they are paying a fee to reach a certain amount of users. They do not account for how many profiles are actually bots. In the case of Twitter, 23 million fake profiles rounds out to about 9% of their active accounts. The company says that number might be on the low end, so the percentage is most likely larger. The only option is to be extra suspicious of any direct mail that you receive, and to think twice before clicking on any sketchy links. Twitter will undoubtedly be putting in overtime to try and clean up some of their bot profiles, but in the meantime there are some guidelines to follow if you don’t want to get spammed. First and foremost, don’t follow everyone back who follows you, even if it is the polite thing to do in the world of social media. Be wary of accounts that follow a lot of profiles, but don’t have many followers. Also be suspicious of any profile that has a lot of typos. Having a few is normal, but when words are continuously misspelled, chances are that it’s a spambot. These bots know that sex sells, so most of their profile pictures are of attractive women. That pretty picture can burn you in the end, so keep your eyes open and your mouse to yourself.

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