48 million users in Twitter are not human says study

While some of these social bots provide useful information, some can be turned into mere pawns to spread fake news.


The chances that your "followers" who "retweet" and "like" your tweets religiously may not be a person, who likes what you have to share, but are simply bots mimicking human behaviours on the social media platform. A new study by the University of Southern California and Indiana University show that more than 15% of users on Twitter may actually be bots.

Researchers took more than a thousand factors into accounts which included collated information from public data and meta data gathered from users regarding their friends, tweets and network patterns on the social media platform to come to this conclusion.

A huge chunk of these bots is what is termed as "social bots", which are actually controlled via software and has minimum human output and engages in generating content and establishing interactions. Some of them are useful in nature and supply their target demographic with an important nugget of syndicated news or weather information. However, the concerning fact is that these bots can also be used by political candidates to act like human users and sway the popularity towards them during an election campaign. They can, if unchecked, also lead to spreading of fake news, forced or fabricated tilting on popular notion on a particular topic. At the present time when "fake news" has been the burning topic of discussion in the tech world, the chances of the bots being responsible for it are not very unlikely.

The study also mentions that Twitter in 2014 had submitted a report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, saying that a meagre 5% to 8.5% of their user base consisted of bots. The present research bumps up the number to 15%. According to Statista, 319 million monthly active users have been recorded in this microblogging platform in the last quarter which means according to the research there are nearly 48 million bot accounts present currently in Twitter.

This article was first published on March 12, 2017