What is a Twitter Bot, how can you check who is a Twitter Bot, and who is not?

There are a lot of different kinds of Twitter bots, some are OK, others maybe not.

Who is a Twitter Bot and Who is Not

A study released by the University of Southern California suggested that up to 15 percent (48 million) of Twitter’s user base could be bots. But what is the real definition of a Bot?

While bots seem to bring a negative connotation, their are some bot accounts that are not bad at all to follow. There are many beneficial bot accounts that automatically alert you of natural disasters, weather events, customer service accounts, etc.

So what really is a bot? Is a bot a human or not? How can a human be a bot? So many questions with so many opinions, and that seems to be a major problem when distinguished what is a bot account and what is not.

As far as we see it, a bot is not human. Even though these bot accounts are not human, they can still followback, like and share. The differences in the meaning of bots will be different depending on who you talk to. Some will tell you that bots are accounts that tweet propaganda and fake news. But who is the judge on what is and is not propaganda or fake news?


Defining What a Bot Account Is

Currently, there is so much talk in the news about bots on social media platforms. Typically they refer to bot accounts and fake twitter accounts spreading political propaganda, but the big challenge is, what is fake, and what is a bot?

If you were to do a search on Google for "What is a Bot", you may (or may not) be surprised to find the definition is vague and broad.

  • "Bots are fake Twitter accounts that spread propaganda and intimidate people." ~ marketplace.org
  • "A Twitter bot is a type of bot software that controls a Twitter account via the Twitter API." ~ wikipedia.org

Some sites will even go as far as to make up their own definition;

  • "A Trollbot is a classification we created to describe human controlled accounts who exhibit toxic troll-like behavior." ~ botsentinel.com

A Few Tips that Will Help Detect Bot Accounts.

Not all bot accounts are bad, in some cases it will be up to you up to you to decide what is and what is not a bot account. You will have to make your own decision as to whether you want to block, follow or unfollow.

Here are a few things to look for when deciding if a twitter account is a bot or not.

  1. Account Creation Date: If the account was created within the last 30 days does not mean it is a bot account, but it is definitely a red flag that you should investigate further.
  2. Odd Looking Account Names: By glancing at the users account name it will give you a clue. Look for accounts that have a series of numbers, like ‘adam676543’ or simply looks odd, this is a good hint to look further.
  3. Following a Lot, Followed by Few: This is another warning if an account has very few followers, but is following many.
  4. No Profile Image: This is not always the case, but people who have not uploaded a profile picture, should raise another red flag.
  5. No Interactions Other than Retweets: If you have followed each step above and have gotten this far and realize this account has nothing but retweets, chances are, you have found a real bot.

Though no technique is 100% foolproof to discover the bots, using these tips above should help you avoid most of the bots and help you better enjoy your Twitter experience.

Who Can You Trust to Tell You Who and What is a Bot Account?

After looking at a couple of key things on any twitter account, you can tell pretty quickly what is a bot and who is not, but below we are going to look at some serious issues with some of these 'Bot Checker" sites that are using political opinion to decide who is, and who is not a bot account.

This Should Alarm Everyone

It should not matter what your political beliefs are, this is simply wrong. Let's take a closer look at Melissa A. @TheRightMelissa.

By quickly glancing this profile, a few things are surely going pop out.

  1. She has her picture with President Trump
  2. She is wearing large red "Make America Hat"
  3. She has over 38.1k Tweets
  4. Following 1,657.
  5. Over 201K Followers
  6. She is Colored
  7. She is Christian
  8. She is Conservative.

This is the part that should annoy anyone, almost to the point where one could seriously consider that this site should be reported for committing hate crimes… at the very least.

Testing this account to see if it is a bot account using botsentinel.com, they have her classified as being '84% Trollbot Rating: Alarming'

Even worse than that, they are encouraging you to report her account!

"Our analysis has concluded TheRightMelissa exhibits alarming tweet activity and patterns that match a trollbot account. Please report this account to Twitter and avoid".

So, according to this site, this person is surely a bot right? Absolutely wrong, see below.

Using a site called Botometer,  another online tool you can use to classify Twitter accounts as human or bot, the results are significantly different.

This site, using completely different algorithms will clearly let you know that this account is not a bot.

To Sum it Up

So when it comes to using some program to detect if a twitter profile is a bot or not, sometimes it is just as good to simply use common sense, for that will prove to be better than any of these bot checking sites.


About the Author:

The SEO-Alien is a project started in 2009 regarding all things online marketing. The site started out more of a diary of predictions, suggestions and references to things I frequently used for online marketing... before social media marketing was even an option.

I hope you find the information and tools presented here useful and something worth sharing with others.

If there is anything else about online marketing or any online advertising strategy you think would be helpful, please let me know.

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