Elon Musk’s $44 billion Twitter buy has hit a new roadblock, called Twitter Bots. The Tesla CEO and Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal are in an all-out open war over these Twitter Bots. Musk’s contention is that the deal to buy Twitter can’t “move forward” unless the company shows public proof that less than 5% of the accounts on the social media platform are fake or spam bots. This follows Musk’s earlier tweet that the deal was on hold pending more bot details, after which Twitter shares plunged nearly 10% . Responding to Musk, Agrawal said that the platform suspends more than a half-million seemingly bogus accounts daily, usually before they are even seen, and locks millions more weekly that fail checks to make sure that the platform is controlled by humans and not by software. He added that the company’s internal measures show that fewer than five percent of accounts active on any given day at Twitter are spam, but that analysis can’t be replicated externally due to the need to keep user data private.
Musk, who has earlier said that bots plague Twitter and that he would make getting rid of them a priority if he owned the platform, responded to that Agrawal’s series of tweets on Twitter Bots with a poo emoji. “So how do advertisers know what they’re getting for their money?” Musk tweeted in a subsequent response about the need to prove Twitter users are real people. “This is fundamental to the financial health of Twitter,” he wrote. Agrawal says that the process used to estimate how many accounts are bots has been shared with Musk.
So what exactly and these Twitter Bots and what they do or can do.
What are Twitter Bots
Twitterbot is a software program, also known as zombies, that sends out automated posts on Twitter. Most Twitterbots simply send out tweets at regular intervals or set time periods, usually responding to instances of specific words or phrases in user messages. More sophisticated Twitter Bots perform tasks, like mining and analyzing tweets in real time.
What can Twitter Bots do
Twitter bots are programmed to perform certain predefined and set tasks that resemble those of normal Twitter users. These include liking tweets and following other users. Their very purpose is to tweet and retweet content for specific goals/purpose/agenda on a large scale. The aim of this bot activity can be helpful or harmful, depending on the nature of the bot. For example, Twitter Bots are also used to broadcast important message like weather emergencies in real time, sharing informative content en masse, and generating automatic replies. These are helpful bots.
Twitter bots designed for the malicious purposes are used for intimidation, bully, spreading fake news campaigns, spamming and sock-puppeting. As per research company Norton, “Cybercriminals have used Twitter bots to spread malicious content that contains malware to large groups of Twitter users at the same time. You can help protect yourself against such malware by not clicking on links in tweets and other communications from unknown or suspicious sources.”
Twitter bots are also said to be used for political propaganda and to influence elections. “Countries and interest groups may use Twitter bots to spread discontent or panic. That could potentially affect healthcare system, financial markets, community actions, and elections,” as per Norton.
(With additional inputs from Agencies)