Why Is Somebody Creating An Army Of Twitter Bots?

There’s been some speculation this week regarding Donald Trump’s Twitter account. Why? Because its follower count “dramatically” increased (according to reports) due to a bunch of bots. Since Twitter analytics are my thing at the moment, I decided to do some digging.

Sean examined some of Trump’s new followers and found they had something in common. They aren’t just following Donald Trump, they’re following lots of popular accounts.

Popular person, Barack Obama

So, I wrote and ran a script that queried Twitter for the last 5,000 accounts to follow the “top 100” Twitter accounts (Twitter accounts with the highest number of followers). The output of that script was a list of roughly 200,000 unique accounts.

Of those 200,000, over 20,000 accounts follow 5 or more of the top 100 Twitter accounts. Roughly 8,000 of those 20,000 accounts were created on the 1st of June 2017, have a default profile, no profile picture, and haven’t Tweeted.

947 of those accounts follow @realDonaldTrump.

Over 2000, or roughly a quarter of the above 8,000 accounts follow exactly 21 Twitter users (436 of those follow @realDonaldTrump).

New Twitter Bots

My scripts harvested tons of this… stuff in just a few hours.

What do these accounts have in common?

  • Many of the accounts are named using Arabic or Chinese characters.
  • Most of the accounts have no followers. Those accounts that are being followed have picked up p0rnbots that automatically follow new Twitter accounts. The p0rnbot accounts don’t appear to be affiliated with the group creating these new Twitter accounts.
  • Some of the accounts are “themed”. For instance I came across a few that were following NASA and a number of science-related Twitter accounts. I found others following mostly celebrities or musicians. I also found African and Indian themes (accounts following politicians/groups in those regions).
  • Checking back in at a later time, I noticed that these accounts are slowly being “evolved” to look more “natural” (by liking Tweets and adding followers/followed).

Apparently somebody’s real busy cultivating a huge number of Twitter accounts at this very moment. As to why they’re doing it, we can only speculate.

  • The accounts will be sold off at a later date.
  • They’re being prepared for use by follower-boosting services.
  • They’re being cultivated for later “political” use.

Whatever the reason, this stuff isn’t being done in a very stealthy manner. And creating new Twitter accounts is easily automated. (I just created a new account using a Gmail alias; account_name+alias@gmail.com.)

I assume the folks at Twitter must see this activity. And I’m just wondering why they’re not doing anything about it. Creating accounts doesn’t even require a CAPTCHA.

P.S. – As an added bonus for those who like numbers p0rn, I checked which of the 200,000 unique accounts followed at least 10 of the top 100 accounts. It turns out roughly 7,000 of them do. Of these 7,000, around 3,000 were created on 1st June 2017, have a default profile, no profile picture, and haven’t Tweeted. 367 of those users follow @realDonaldTrump.

About 1,000 of those accounts follow exactly 21 other Twitter accounts. 160 of those follow @realDonaldTrump.



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