Is Twitter really full of spambots?


Even though Twitter claims the number is less than 5%, many reports offer contrasting statements. Illustration: Toggle Desktop

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Even though Twitter claims the number is less than 5%, many reports offer contrasting statements. Illustration: Toggle Desktop

Elon Musk recently suspended his $44 billion takeover of Twitter because he wants more information about the exact number of fake accounts and spam bots on the global microblogging platform.

While some reports suggest that Musk’s temporary grip is nothing more than an underhanded bargaining strategy by the world’s richest man, it raises a curious question:

How many spambots are there really on Twitter?

A shift in the numbers

In a May 2 public filing, Twitter claimed that less than 5% of its 229 million daily active users are fake or spam accounts. This report, conducted through an internal review of a select sample of Twitter accounts, looked at the users targeted by the ad.

However, there was no clear indication of what exactly this sample of accounts was, how many parody or joke accounts were taken into account or simply what qualifies as “fake or spam” according to Twitter.

Additionally, since Musk’s recent announcement, multiple reports have refuted Twitter’s claim of 5% fake accounts, suggesting the number should be much higher – at least three times what Twitter claims.

What do unofficial sources think?

According to a Reuters report, researchers believe that at least 9% of all Twitter accounts are bots. However, this number comes from a 2017 study, and the number is expected to increase in recent years.

Dan Brahmy, CEO of Israeli tech company Cyabara, believes Twitter has downplayed the number of fake accounts. According to Reuters, Cyabara uses machine learning to identify fake accounts and they estimate that the actual percentage of fake accounts on Twitter should be 13.7%.

How does Facebook compare?

Moving to a different platform, in its Q4 2021 report, Meta said that fake profiles constitute about 5% of all monthly active Facebook users.

In the same report, Meta estimated that 11% of all Facebook accounts are duplicate accounts, meaning a user controls multiple accounts at the same time.

A person opening multiple accounts is a common practice on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

What does Twitter do?

Twitter hasn’t been silent on spam prevention.

Reports indicate that in 2018, Twitter acquired Smyte, a software company specializing in preventing scams, spam, and online harassment. After the acquisition, Twitter removed several accounts that they called “spam and suspicious”.

This caused a massive drop of 1 million active users in July 2018, with a stock drop to follow.

However, insider reports claim that Twitter employees are not well versed in dealing with fake accounts and spam bots, as detecting such accounts is not a practice that Twitter is yet too adept at.

An anonymous source told Reuters that Twitter uses a range of metrics and definitions to understand its own idea of ​​”fake and spam accounts,” but these metrics also limit the accuracy of detection. The continued creation of new fake accounts further undermines the accuracy of these results, the source claims.

Before Musk completes his acquisition of Twitter, will he be able to find the true number of fake accounts and spam bots on the popular social media platform? Only time will tell.

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