Beware the Twitter Bots

Does this look like a real person to you?

It’s not. We checked.

We know of the Twitter “bot” phenomenon because someone at some organization has created some bots that automatically share headlines from certain blogs (one of which is ours).

It boosts our Twitter numbers on screen, but it’s also more than a little creepy.

This Wall Street Journal report tries to get to the bottom of the whole thing, and the “rapper” mentioned in the piece—who followed us personally for some reason—says “If you’re not padding your numbers, you’re not doing it right.”

Oh yeah?

Twitter bots can be useful in a supervillain-y sort of way by falsely giving the impression that hundreds or thousands of people are sharing a certain piece of content or posting a trending hashtag. We can see how certain brands might want to do that in order to get more eyes on a promo campaign, but it’s blatantly dishonest and manipulative—two words we definitely don’t like.

Twitter says that only 5% of its 230 million active users are fake, but that claim doesn’t fly. Think about it: 230 million total users and nearly one in five follows Lady Gaga? Other reports have estimated that as many as half of those accounts are fake, and we believe it.

The more we uncover about this practice, the more the credibility of Twitter—and any organization that pays a “bot factory” for fake followers—will suffer.

We fully admit to not really understanding this trend in some cases, however. Why would someone create a dozen accounts complete with stock photo headshots to automatically retweet posts written for a series of industry-specific blogs?

We have no idea.

UPDATE: These Twitter bots just retweeted this story about Twitter bots. What the hell is going on here?!