Twitter has been trying to tackle the issue of bot networks for years. Despite banning millions of fake accounts, there is still a seemingly endless stream of bots interacting with the platform to this day.
How many Twitter users are bots?
According to estimation by researchers back in 2017, as much as 15% of Twitter users were bots - which equates to roughly 48 million accounts at the time. This is a significant figure, but the real number could be even higher as it’s suspected some bots are highly complex and may be identified as human beings, therefore not being accounted into the total figure.
A later analysis by a group of Tokyo researchers estimates that 8-18% of users during the period April-June 2021 were bots. Finding out the true number may prove to be impossible, particularly for third-party researchers who must contend with the fact that they will never have access to all the necessary data.
Who creates these bots?
The ones controlling the robot levers behind the scenes vary to a great extent. Perpetrators most often reported in the news are state-affiliated groups seeking to spread disinformation and affect the political landscape in foreign countries. During the onset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine this year, a huge spike of accounts was registered, which prompted Twitter to take action and has resulted in the removal of over 75,000 accounts since the war began.
Others may have profitability in mind and create bot networks specifically to sell as a service, by offering to artificially boost the number of followers, likes and other engagement metrics for brands or celebrity profiles. Since consumers' purchasing habits are greatly influenced by what they discover on social networks, it is also common for digital marketers to use Twitter as a platform to promote content - oftentimes using multiple accounts at once with the aid of twitter
Not every bot is considered bad however - Twitter does allow the limited usage of bots and automation software, as long as their rules for automation are followed.
What Twitter is doing against bot networks
While Twitter relies heavily on real users reporting suspected bots and spammy content, they have also been sharpening the technological prowess of their bot-detecting algorithms, and are currently suspending millions of accounts every month. While this figure is impressive, it goes to show that bots are likely to stay on Twitter.
With such a large amount of accounts being affected, it also brings up the question of how reliable the system really is at distinguishing genuine users from bots, and whether there is any collateral damage in the form of innocent users being mistakenly banned from the platform.
If genuine users risk being suspended for unknowingly sharing tweets posted by bot accounts, or engaging in discussions with seemingly human participants, one can imagine how it could negatively impact Twitter’s reputation and long-term status as one of the biggest social network platforms.