For the Tesla boss, who wanted to take over Twitter, the proportion of fake users on the social network is largely underestimated. But where do these fake accounts come from?
The stipulation of Twitter’s takeover by fake account guarantees has placed the “bots,” these automated computer programs, at the heart of this eventful takeover process.
This extremely popular piece of software can be so problematic that tech giants like Meta, Google, and Twitter have entire teams tasked with removing it. But what is that exactly?
human or bot?
Bots are automated software that interacts with platforms or their users by pretending to be real people, Tamer Hassan, head of cybersecurity firm HUMAN, which specializes in distinguishing between humans and algorithms, told AFP on the web.
These programs have become increasingly sophisticated and, when malicious, pose one of the top computer threats of this decade, according to Hassan.
On Twitter, the term “bot” often refers to fake accounts powered by some form of artificial intelligence that can post tweets in bursts and even respond to other postings, according to independent analyst Rob Enderle.
Influence and Cybercrime
“The question is what would you do if you could impersonate a million people?” asks Tamer Hassan. “On social networks, bots can be used to post content that influences people’s minds, evokes reactions, and can even be used for cybercrime,” he adds.
Among other things, they can spread misinformation, direct users to untrustworthy websites and fake news, and popularize misleading posts by re-sharing and “liking” them. Fake accounts, used in more than three-quarters of online attacks and frauds, can also lure people into financial fraud, Hassan said.
“Social networks have had bots for a long time,” notes Mr. Enderle. “Bots have been linked to attempts to influence US elections and shape opinions about the war in Ukraine.”
The problem with Twitter
Twitter makes its revenue from advertising, and advertisers pay to target humans, not algorithms. “Advertising to bots won’t have much of a chance of success because bots don’t buy products,” says Rob Enderle.
When advertisers on Twitter pay fees based on the number of people who see their ads and those numbers are inflated by bots on the network, they get overwhelmed, he says.
If Twitter has many more bots than it admits, once these fake accounts are identified and deleted, its revenue could plummet.
Parag Agrawal, Twitter Executive Director, claimed that less than 5% of active accounts on Twitter are fake, but the assessment of the accounts’ humanity cannot be independently conducted as user data must be kept confidential.
four times higher
Elon Musk assured him that these could be real fake accounts four times higher than what Twitter is saying and that if it acquires the platform it would make their removal a priority.
The Bluebird Group has automated account rules that prevent bots from posting messages on hot topics, spamming, trying to influence online conversations, and running multiple accounts at the same time.
Fake accounts are a recurring and well-known problem in social networks. That Elon Musk made it a sticking point during the takeover process therefore, according to Enderle, “appears to be a way to sidestep the takeover or get a lower price.”
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