Recent reports suggest social media bots are widely spreading fake news on the Internet.
A Twitterbot is a bot program used to create accounts and automated tweets that requires little or no human intervention. This typically means that not all accounts have to be created by humans. Twitterbots can be used for entertainment, marketing, spamming, manipulating Twitter’s trending topics list and public opinion, trolling, fake followers, malware distribution, and data set pollution, among other things.
A ‘Star Wars’ botnet of 350,000 accounts secretly infiltrated Twitter in 2013 and has laid dormant ever since. The Star Wars botnet randomly tweeted quotes from Star Wars novels.
This comes after the reports in June 2016 that a botnet of 3 million accounts, which was created earlier in April 2014, is responsible for a total of 2.6 billion tweets with a daily activity of 500 million tweets. Volumes of this amount could be used to influence public opinion.
It is in Twitter’s best interest to monitor accounts and make sure they are legitimate but, with a monthly average of 313 million users, this is almost impossible. Hardware and software is now readily available so that bots can be modified to avoid detection. In the Star Wars example, by tweeting quotes from novels, the bots are able to avoid machine-generated language detection tools.