Twitter bots and botnets sparked much discussion in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. With the midterm elections rapidly approaching, we ask: What is a Twitter bot? How can you detect what’s real and what’s not?
Some typical characteristics of bots on Twitter include:
- Many Twitter bots have a relatively recent creation date.
- Many bot user names contain numbers, which can indicate automatic name generation.
- The account primarily retweets content, rather than tweeting original content.
- The account’s tweet frequency is higher than a human user could feasibly achieve.
- The account may have a high number of followers and also be following a lot of accounts; conversely, some bot accounts are identifiable because they send a lot of tweets but only have a few followers.
- Many bots tweet the same content as other users at roughly the same time.
- Short replies to other tweets can also indicate automated behavior.
- There is often no biography, or indeed a photo, associated with bot Twitter accounts.