Billionaire Elon Musk on Friday suspended his $ 44 billion (about Rs. 3,40,800 crore) takeover plan for Twitter while waiting for details on the microblogging platform’s claim that fake accounts make up less than 5 percent of users.
Musk, who has made the erasure of fake Twitter accounts and spam bots the central theme of his takeover plan, said if he buys the social media platform, “he will defeat the spam bots or die if he tries”.
He continually blamed the company’s excessive reliance on advertising for the relentless distribution of spam bots.
Twitter, like other social media companies, has struggled with spam bots over the past few years through 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 promote activity on social media platforms like Twitter.
If accounts on the platform engage in “bulk, aggressive or fraudulent activities that mislead people”, these activities are considered platform manipulation in accordance with company policy.
Overlapping accounts that share similar content, mass registrations of accounts, the use of automated or coordinated accounts to create false links, and trades in followers are listed as violations of Twitter’s spam policy.
A Twitter survey conducted across four countries showed that the biggest user 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 recognize patterns of malicious activity.
The algorithms challenge 5 million to 10 million accounts per week.
However, Twitter allows parody, news feed, commentary and fan accounts, provided they reveal the nature of the account in the bio.
What does Twitter do with fake accounts?
When Twitter detects a fake account, it can close the account or seek verification. In the case of multiple accounts, the user may be asked to keep one.
Are all bots bad?
Twitter does not think all bots are bad and has introduced a label to mark the good ones.
“Who does not like a handful of robots who promise not to rise up against us?” the company’s Twitter security handle tweeted in September last year.
Good bots allow automated accounts to share useful information, such as updates on COVID-19 updates and traffic.
“Knowing who you really are is fundamental to the integrity of the Internet,” said Tamer Hassan, chief executive of cybersecurity firm HUMAN.
“When it comes to managing the threat that sophisticated bots pose to organizations, most companies try not to lose. Defensive strategies focus on reducing damage rather than playing to win.”
Why does Musk hate spam bots?
Musk, a self-proclaimed freedom of speech absolutist, wants Twitter to become a forum for free speech, which he believes is “the foundation of a functioning democracy”, and sees spam bots as a threat to the idea.
In a recent TedX interview, Musk said his top priority was to remove “bot hosts” on Twitter, calling out bots that promote crypto-based scams on Twitter.
“They make the product a lot worse. If I had a Dogecoin for every crypto scam I saw, we would have 100 billion Dogecoin.”
© Thomson Reuters 2022