Twitter bots, the problem for which Elon Musk paused his millionaire purchase

Bots have become the center of debate in recent days amid the “buy” of Twitter . What are they and how do they work?


In recent weeks, the purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk  has become the most mediatic case on the internet. However, the latest movements of the millionaires have become strange and have put the bots at the center of the debate .

On Tuesday, Musk said his deal to buy Twitter cannot move forward unless he provides public proof that fewer than 5% of his accounts are fake or spam , as the company reported in a May 2 regulatory filing.

Musk has stepped up his battle against bots in recent days, calling on the US Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate Twitter ‘s claims and asking his 93 million followers for feedback on their experience using the platform. .

This fact has made it clear that Elon Musk wants no more of them, but what are they really?

What is a Twitter bot?

bot is an automated account that mimics the behavior of people on the social network. They can respond, send images or publish content following a series of parameters that depend on artificial intelligence or -simply- source codes .

There are known cases of bots from telephone companies, for example, who automatically respond to user complaints and refer them to a number to the direct message center. Others help you generate video download links or others indicate the value of certain shares in the stock market.

However, while some may have some beneficial utility, the rest can be used maliciously.

Twitter, in 2021, tried to launch a tool to identify “good bots”. With this movement, the social network wants users to quickly know if they are interacting with humans or automated programs.

How do Twitter bots work?

Sometimes the bots are triggered by a word a real person uses in a tweet, causing the account to send an automated reply.

This makes many believed to be for fraud or internet offenses. For example, some accounts are set up to only respond to specific people, like bots that targeted Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, according to Bot Sentinel.

But other dangerous ones can spread misinformation, including on key issues like COVID-19 and the election. They try to form a malicious opinion on topics of public debate.

The most serious are those that try to scam people, a variant that has grown with the popularity of cryptocurrencies: if a user talks about bitcoin or NFT, sooner rather than later they will have bot accounts offering them gifts in cryptocurrencies with links that seek to hijack the Private information.

Elon Musk himself has called them “Twitter’s most annoying problem.”

66% of all internet traffic comes from bots related to cyberattacks , says cybersecurity firm Barracuda Networks .

According to the study, the majority of bot traffic comes from two public clouds – AWS and Microsoft Azure – in very similar amounts, making up two-thirds of total Internet traffic.

How many bots are there on Twitter?

Twitter notes that the percentage of bot accounts on the platform is 5%; Musk, however, assures that it is at least 20%.

Parag Agrawal made a thread on the social network noting that he estimates that “less than 5%” of Twitter accounts are bots. He noted that spam and bots are serious problems facing all social media platforms, and more importantly, they are an evolving and “dynamic” problem. “Adversaries, their goals and tactics are constantly evolving, often in response to our work! You can’t create a set of rules to detect spam today and expect them to still work tomorrow.”

The billionaire says that having so many bots on the social network is counterproductive. “So how do advertisers know what they are getting for their money? This is critical to the financial health of Twitter,” the millionaire said in a follow-up tweet.

Bots are negative because they worsen the user experience, who will feel harassed to maintain almost immediate contact with these types of accounts during their day to day. The value of the platform to real people is eroded if they lose faith in the integrity of the service.