Although you fine folks might remember me from a few other projects, I'm currently a Graphics Editor at The New York Times. We're actively curious and interested in pursuing lines of inquiry about this sort of behavior, and if any HN'ers have any interesting leads or tips, I'd encourage you to get in touch. You can reach me at my username @nytimes.com, or email me and I'll send you my Signal number.
Many then switched to Facebook, presumably hoping that the "Real Name" policy would improve things.
The interesting thing is that clicking on many of the Facebook profiles on these comments leads to curiously sterile profiles, with a few friends. Some of the most vehemently pro-Trump comments seem to have originated from these accounts, especially on certain Conservative sites during the Republican Primary season.
Facebook seems to have no interest (or ability) to clean this up.
Perhaps there are commenters unwilling to link their real FB identity to supporting Trump? On the other hand, I see plenty of people make outrageous statements online clearly linked to their real FB profile so maybe this isn't a widespread concern.
Also these are not just stand-alone fake accounts with no friends created for making comments....these are curated to have enough details that make them look plausible to an unsophisticated automated detector (or overworked FB abuse department employee), but they have few friends, all with similar sorts of profiles, and no signs of activity except for posting comments.
I do agree that there was an element of "shyness" and self-censorship, but I expect it was from supporters of other candidates, who would not want their Real Names and identities to get embroiled in fights with fake profiles.
As a side note, I don't have a FB account so I don't know how this works but do your friends have the ability to see what comments you've made on sites using FB login for commenting?
That said, I'm sure that all the politicians have people who can drum up social media followers or spread whatever message they want. I don't think there's any conspiracy to it. It's not like we've gotten rid of email spam, either. This is just an extension of that.
And my Twitter account is so sterile that no one I know follows me. And yet, it's a real account.
I've got a fake FB account for the same reason you describe, and I don't bother go to the efffort of puttiing in the sorts of fake details that these accounts have.
*I hope you got the name. I've redacted it for obvious reasons.
You have an argument with someone on twitter and the next second 4 or 5 newly formed eggs with 1 follower apiece pile in to defend the other POV, sometimes without regard to civility.
It could be a coincidence.
Or it could be that the person you were debating let their ID out in another way.
Edit: Just to be clear, I was talking about the Freudian "Id" in all caps, used these days as a short-hand for a sort of unfiltered emotional inner child, and not "I.D." which is short for identification.
For a neat paper that actually has some nice hard evidence about what government production of social posts can look like, check out Gary King and co. at Harvard's exploration of Zhanggong, China:
We summarized it here: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/20/business/international/ch...
"China". To think I used to actually pay for your paper in my errant youth! :)
For something more detailed I guess "Can we talk about nowheremom yet" is a good start: https://forums.anandtech.com/threads/can-we-talk-about-nowhe...
Or the "DaveonWheels" hoax: http://observer.com/2012/10/meet-hunter-dunn-the-young-man-w... http://dave-on-wheels-exposed.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/dave-on...
I would like to see someone write the story of the overarching result of what a world will look like in an increasing internet-focused world, when disinformation campaigns can be funded by the highest bidder, and actual individual voices get drained out.
 Reports of Putin using online troll brigades pre-dates the creation of Twitter https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_brigades
Consider how it is compatible with the existence of Putin's troll army.
At the very least try to imagine the relative scale of money/power involved in the propaganda in the West compared to the rest of the world. (for reference, check military spendings)
Why would you assume the troll army is trying to make "Russia" look good? It's far more likely they would focus on individual goals like keeping the US out of Ukraine. Or making us look bad on the international stage to other countries. They don't need to look good, they just need us to look bad. Putin isn't an idiot, no amount of propaganda is going to change the fact that some of what happens in Russia will never be accepted by the rest of the world. He just needs to look better than the alternative. It's far easier to make us look bad than himself look good.
This completely misses the point of what the troll army is there to do. It isn't aiming at convincing people of a point of view, but confusing the audience. You should read this story from 2015: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31962644
Isn't that the normal state of things since Gilgamesh?
It's impossible to win a competitive SEO game without a PBN for link manufacturing, a bunch of lackeys and bots posting on astroturfed accounts, and so forth. I learned that if I'm going to do another business that depends on traffic, there will be no option but to spam and turf aggressively.
Google's dirty secret is that it's been completely and thoroughly gamed for a long time now. People are just used to sorting through the crap.
For example, Hootsuite Amplify is a platform designed to dominate social media by making it easy for your company's employee base to share and promote curated content.
This has a similar effect to botnets, except it's not violating t&c.
We're entering a world where authentic conversation is harder and harder to find. Historically personal content such as emails and tweets are now carefully constructed and managed, but still presented as personal content.
I guess. When I was a youth you found authentic conversation by being in the world and meeting an authentic person and having a conversation. If we keep that definition constant then it's precisely as hard to find today as it has always been.
When you were a youth, being in the world and meeting an authentic person didn't have quite as much competition as it does today.
It's like saying you're not concerned about the environmental impact of cars because we can always choose good old reliable walking instead.
Consuming this pseudo content is tiring though... Keep calm and shill on?
The customers were generally people trying to get their small business out there or some local thinking it could make them into an internet celebrity (I work in/around Scottsdale, AZ and there are a lot of people here that think like that).
We had a separate script that would check to make sure each account was still active once a day and if accounts were removed, they would be replenished automatically, although once a client lost a follower, it was gone and a new one didn't replace it for them.
It was all kinda shady and it was one of the numerous reasons I left that web agency (which went bankrupt a year later and is no more), but it apparently produced decent results since search ranking increased both on Twitter/Facebook and on Google. I'm unsure if it is still as effective, though; this was almost 4 years ago that I left.
Only time I've seen it first hand since was with a client trying to get famous. They made some YouTube videos and bought tens of thousands of YouTube subscribers from somewhere (we don't offer that at my current agency)
That said, the latter example on YouTube was not effective at all, but that was probably because the content wasn't great.
It doesn't matter how 'pure' a site is, you can still buy a link, it just costs more.
It's all about looking at how the algorithm works, then gaming it. Tinker with Twitter and facebook, spend some money, keep the results secret. Sell this information. Do what works to your clients.
Bot nets work. For now. Does Twitter want to kill them? Maybe not, active accounts is a big number that they love to tell people.
If you enjoy chiming in on national conversations then it's a cheap way to appear prestigious. Of course, you need to be able to argue well enough to not out yourself as some random joe.
A look at the history or content of mentions is probably the best bet to detect a faked account. Still, a clever person might slip by a cursory check.
You could totally use it for business purposes too - as a really shitty form of advertising or just to make your popularity look higher. I doubt it'd be too effective, but hey, it's cheap.
I know from my own experience when doing research on a company - whether it's a prospective client, vendor or competitor, I'll click through to their social properties to gauge their traction.
I definitely look at their engagement ratios to determine whether their social following is organic or fake, but I think typical consumers miss this.
To appear more legit these bots also copy user comments and post them to /r/askreddit in threads that are similar named but most often not exactly the same as the original post. I suspect that often this /r/askreddit thread is also created by another bot from the same farm.
I'm not sure what the owners do with these bots, but I suspect you could downvote views you don't like or upvote videos to the frontpage and make lots of views and money from that.
How do they sit with you? As videos on twitter don't seem to work at all, it's a great service, imo.
The bots or sock puppets or fake accounts I mentioned don't provide any other value than copying old front-page material and repost it a year or 2 later without any indication that this isn't their own material.
For mine, I scraped a bunch of Instagram pictures for photos, auto-generated a bunch of bios using a few basic parameters, e.g. "Beer lover, proud parent." Names were easy - the most popular first & last names from census records, mix and match. Grab a few lat/longs and convert them to the biggest US cities and you have a location, find some data source to tweet from (breaking news is easiest) and you have a fully automated, human-like Twitter account. For bonus points, Pick a random color toward the low ends of the hexadecimal range ( rand(a..c)++rand(0..f)++rand(a..c)++rand(0..f)++rand(a..c)++rand(0..f) works fine) and you even look like your page is personalized down to the color.
Start following random people and 10% follow back (even more if you follow people who are tweeting about similar keywords as you - kindred spirits I guess).
The only tricky part is making sure you don't cross lines with your IPs. You could buy/rent them privately, but you really only want to keep a few accounts (3-5) to each IP, so that gets expensive ($.75/IP/month) when you don't have a really good reason to use your accounts. You can scrape free listings for them, but those are nasty, slow, and can cause bans if Twitter decides to take down a whole range or if you are forced to switch IPs too quickly.
Device type, browser, etc. is easy to spoof.
Should you decide to, it's also really easy to change name, username, and profile picture of an account in the future. So if I wanted a few thousand Trump-supporting (or Trump-hating) sock puppets I could have them today.
If you don't want to buy/create/manage Twitter accounts yourself you can get access to what's called a "panel." A panel is basically an automated, coin-operated network of fake accounts that you can control at wholesale prices. Want 5,000 followers? Plug $1/1,000 followers into the panel, supply the username, and you'll have them in a couple of minutes. Or resell 5,000 followers for $25 and pocket the $20 difference. For example of a panel, see this ad on blackhatworld: https://www.blackhatworld.com/seo/the-biggest-smm-panel-yout.... Nothing special about this one, just the first I found when I googled. They're a dime a dozen.
I'm certain there are millions of fake accounts for every service imaginable.
(As Seen On HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8336036 )
Are there any services out there that sell followers which are less distinguishable from a basic bot account? Or to ask a related question, how much work goes into creating the illusion of authenticity? I'm interested in estimating the likelihood of a given user being real.
If you're looking to analyze the legitimacy of a Twitter user it would probably be from the content they tweet. Creating unique tweets is really difficult at scale, so most just retweet or pull from some data source. And if they create enough unique original, valuable content, well https://xkcd.com/810/. Watching people argue with Markov chain generators, incidentally, is one of my favorite things in the world.
There are quite a few services that attempt to determine what percentage of an account's followers are legitimate, but I'm not sure how they do it; probably each a different way.
As an aside, I did watch someone sell a famous author 100,000 twitter followers for $15,000, only to turn around and buy those followers for $100 and take his family to Disneyland.
I'm not sure about all of the details; I'm sure there are a variety of indicators that go into spam score and once you tip the spam threshold you're banned. So I would guess that students on a school network do things well enough to stay safe, but if you have 1,000 bot accounts on the same IP it's just a matter of time before they're all gone.
So if you want to manage a network of fake accounts I try to use a proxy IP or VPN to connect to each account every time you connect to/with it. (Also clear cookies/cache, spoof the same device, etc.) I'm sure better programmers could work around this by compensating in other ways, but I'm not sure how.
HN needs more of this type of comments, not less
Even if you disagree with people who use such hacks (I do too), it is interesting.
"Buy social media followers" is a straightforward business.
One could argue this is even preferable. Interestingly, as a line of inquiry, it leads to having philosophical difficulties with the Bill of Rights.
People make fake accounts for everything everywhere for all sorts of reasons. Seems as though you stumbled on some fakes that may all be related (all posting starwars quotes) but maybe not. Could be just some off the shelf software that creates twitter accounts.
Probably a non-negligible percent of people with the job description "social media manager" create small armies of bots to do their bidding.
> "Their potential threats are real and scary due to the sheer size of the botnet," he said.
Kind of overstates things. These accounts will likely be used for spam or advertising of some sort. Journalists have a distorted worldview when it comes to the importance of Twitter. I know you all love it, but the rest of the world doesn't really care.
For instance a Tweet with 100 retweets is substantially more likely to generate additional retweets / be shown more by Twitter's algorithm / etc vs. a tweet with 10 retweets. And scale that up!
Easy to build an experiment and quantify even on a small level for NYT.
You haven't found a massive network of fake accounts. You found a script kiddy or two who didn't know enough to mask their activity or didn't care.
Every April Fool's Day I love to mess with family members. A (hypothetically) good effort:effect ratio I have found is Craigslist: Go into some large city's section (NYC, Austin, Sf, etc) and put up a listing for a 'free xbone' or a 'free PSS1', or something similarly typo'd. Explain that you are giving your kids' Xbone away because of a failing grade, you are moving overseas, your boyfriend cheated on you, etc. Then put down the number of the person to be pranked as the contact info. Now, here is the magic part: Specify that the callers for the free stuff must open the call with a Wookie sound, must text back in only haikus about salmon, must only refer to the xbox-one as a sausage, etc. It'll take the prank-ee a few hours to clear that mess up. This works wonders for April 1st day jokes, is fairly harmless, and generates a lot of fun stories.
The thing I am trying to say to the dear NYT reporter, is that you don't necessarily need bots to do this work for you, and not really even money either, just the promise of something for the low price of the time it takes to make a phone call is usually enough. Greed, I guess, works for a very low commission.
I remember when I first moved to the Bay Area in 2009, I met a smart guy at a startup meetup, a serial entrepreneur with a previous exit. I asked him what he was working on, and he said "Oh, I've been writing a Twitter bot that will follow people of your choosing, engage them in simple conversation, and retweet their tweets. It's building a network of followers - I don't know yet what I'd do with that, but it's an asset that's likely valuable to somebody." I ran into him again a few weeks later, and he'd sold the company.
I think I'd heard from either him or someone here on Hacker News, around that time, that 75% of Twitter traffic was bots and automated accounts. Note that that was early 2009, before Twitter went mainstream and when they still had a really easy-to-use developer API.
Also 350,000 accounts is hardly "massive" as the clickbait title suggests. No way that can account for more than a small percentage of traffic.
The landline telephone business has, for a long time now, been compromised by spammers and bots (telemarketing calls and robocalls). I canceled my land line about four years ago after going for three months without receiving a single call I wanted.
It seems the commercial social networks are headed for the same fate. And, they're headed for hardnosed and unpleasant regulation by governments. They probably need to clean up their acts.
The only downside is that google voice smells like the kind of service that google doesn't regard as a needle mover and it's probably a question of when it gets axed, not if.
Mine as well. I even get fake vocal messages on my voicemail, starting with a first name I might or might not know asking me to call back like it's an emergency and obviously the number is a premium-rate one. I was like wow, that's a whole new level of spamming. I can't imagine the future of spamming : data mining personnal infos on social media + customized fake messages just to make you call back a number.
1) there's little way of figureing out who is actually contacting you.
2) If you file the number with the FCC you don't get a response.
3) it's not always obvious there's a commercial entity on the other side. I've gotten a number of calls that appear to try and keep me on the line while preventing from Turing test esque conversation from taking place.
4) some of the spam is legal--technically they aren't for profit, but they serve as a funnel for commercial services. These have been the most persistent with me.
Have an app that allows you to report a phone call quickly, automatically recording and uploading the entire call (it should record all calls and delete recordings after a few hours if not reported). Then for numbers that have been reported by multiple people, have someone investigate, and if the source is located, file lawsuits.
It's $500 per violation, so if there's enough people lawsuits can work, and the company making the app can reduce investigation costs by distributing it among many different complainers (so even if a private investigator costs several thousand to get contact info, if they called 100 people and they end up getting a 50k judgement it works out).
Usually, I report about 5-10 numbers a day.
And since they hang up when reaching my machine - definitely spam.
It does actually work to ask to be put on the do not call list maintained by the caller (not the national registry), even for scammers. Nobody wants to waste resources.
So, effectively, this kind of thing is legal.
On the contrary, Facebook is the last halo of peace for me. I only talk to my friends, never get unwarranted messages, spam, mail subscriptions, renewals, ads, scary calls/emails, ... you name it. Now if I could email via Facebook, that would be awesome.
Regardless of how infuriated you may be by the behavior of other users, please don't resort to name-calling.
People have bought fake traffic, users and comments for that amount of time too. Often en mass with automated systems importing it from third parties like Yahoo Answers.
It's just that the commercial social networks are now the main target, and the scale of these operations has gone up accordingly.
I'm curious because I've seen the same posts in different places and now see a ton of comments boiling down to "Source?" again. The later used to be everywhere 8-9 years ago, but were typically people that actually wanted a source to read not just spam the question. Now it seems they are spamming it to distract from the real conversations.
While social media at least has "block" and "report". And the collaborative API-driven blocklists used against organised troll attacks.
Even USENET has a better killfile than my landline.
I'm more fascinated by the spam by Facebook accounts. These show up all the time in relatively popular comment sections, and yet apparently FB doesn't care, or the problem is trickier to automatically flag. For example, this comment  is clearly spam...but if you click through to the account, it seems to be a real person , with a normal-seemingly friend network, mundane photos of life that aren't obviously stock photography. There are a few junk comments (a bunch of "hi's", but as an outsider, this is what makes FB a lot trickier to analyze, because you don't know how much privacy that user has enabled on their own account.
I'm not in that industry , so I'm genuinely asking
Everyone. Everyone should know.
We're watching this terrible trend rip apart the entire social proposition of the internet after spending 2 decades trying and finally achieving buy in. And here y'all are, hopefulls for a digital economy cheerfully defrauding the very networks that will probably bet the monetization strategy for many startups that pass through HN's doors.
The total lack of any personal responsibility here, or notion of consequence... It stuns me.
Any public service must plan for its ToS to be broken by bad actors.
Capability is not a moral license to hurt others. If it were, you'd be morally responsible to kill as many people as possible.
My third paragraph is saying this: The US elections were decided by and large by social media plays. There are hints of illegal use by campaign actors, but even beyond that it was the first election we had where widespread bots on facebook and twitter were engaging the electorate. That and the repeal of the VRA are definitely factors in why the democrats lost while still keeping the popular vote.
I've been in this industry since a time when I was a teenager being laughed at for texting ("It'll never catch on."), using social networks ("Why not just call them?"), and reading online news ("WIRED doesn't put real journalism on their website, and slashdot isn't news"). Many people who are on the internet today take for granted that society has accepted this state of affairs, but it's the work of decades of amassing respectability and providing value.
And now in the public eye: dismantling the ability to associate and speak freely because the majority of even first world rich actors cannot use it responsibly.
Sure, there is blame for Twitter and Facebook for not ignoring the problem. But the people here relating in a chipper tone how they're undermining the system because, "Tragedy of the commons?" They're so stupid they're literally biting the hand that feeds them because it's a rush to commit minor fraud.
(Aside: It's very sad that Twitter fired blake so long ago, because he predicted exactly this would happen. Twitter's management didn't want to think about it, so they made him leave. Typical execs.)
There is enough blame to go around, but it is reasonable to blame Twitter. It is not reasonable to expect bad actors to go away. Systems designed on this assumption will always fail.
Yes, we can rightly rail against the people abusing the system, but ultimately there are 7 billion people and expecting all of them to be ethical is foolish.
However, we should expect Twitter to behave ethically and hold it to account when it so clearly fails.
By all means, keep fighting the good fight, but the only thing that can realistically improve the situation is Twitter.
I don't really get this. You seem to agree with me, but then also seem to be chastising me for blaming individuals here proudly abusing the system?
> By all means, keep fighting the good fight, but the only thing that can realistically improve the situation is Twitter.
The HN mods could grab the IP history of the fraudster user and pass them to twitter. That'd make the world incrementally better for a small period of time. Who knows, maybe Twitter could bring a lawsuit to bear. Technically that dude is describing a felony.
In this case, make a system that strictly enforces the verification so multiple accounts can't be created.
The other concern is, what should we do about it? This is where I "chastised" you, because focusing on the ethical behavior of members of the public is generally useless. If the people commenting here didn't do it, someone else would. That doesn't excuse them, but it does mean going after them isn't an effective strategy.
Imagine trying to fight email spam by shaming individual spammers. Many people have done it. It doesn't work. If those people had redirected their energy towards fixing the system, rather than the people, the spam problem could have been solved decades ago.
> The HN mods could grab the IP history of the fraudster user and pass them to twitter.
Besides setting a bad precedent for HN, this would be useless. Twitter already has access to much more information than the BBC did when they did their investigation. Twitter simply doesn't care to act on it. If it was a priority for Twitter, they would fix it, certainly not by bringing a lawsuit, but by applying a technical solution across the board.
By blaming the bad actors, you take heat off of Twitter, and encourage people to waste their efforts doing things that will never make a difference.
But... we're talking to the people that did. It is no hypothetical, no question. Past tense. Done. Did.
I'm not expecting this to axiomatically solve all twitter abuse. I do hope it will spark a conversation about how absolutely ruthlessly amoral many people here are. I hope young people looking for funding for a startup will think twice when they see what kind of environment HN creates. Do you really want to plant your flag and take money from people who enable fraudsters from the very ecosystem you plan to engage with?
I point out people like that all the time in many venues. Because I think that raising awareness of the utter amorality of the software industry means more amoral assholes will be penalized for their actions. Perhaps this is naïve, but it is a conceit I will not easily give up.
> Besides setting a bad precedent for HN,
Yeah the bad precedent of, "Don't boast about how you're destroying the ecosystem we're trying to build a living on." We wouldn't want to disenfranchise the wretched thieving toe-rags who think making political twitterbomb networks, now would we?
> Twitter already has access to much more information than the BBC did when they did their investigation. Twitter simply doesn't care to act on it. If it was a priority for Twitter, they would fix it, certainly not by bringing a lawsuit, but by applying a technical solution across the board.
It's curious how the instant I mention sending data to twitter for enforcement suddenly that, too, is useless. We should focus on making twitter do something but since they don't care we shouldn't bother. Lower our arms from supplication and sink into the mud, I suppose?
> By blaming the bad actors, you take heat off of Twitter,
No see, I have enough incandescent bile that I can do both. But you seem to want to do neither.
Around the election, I noticed on every Trump tweet the second or third reply would be someone selling a "liberal tears" mug. They had a set sequence of posts and replies leading up to that one with the link and they hit every single one of Trump's posts like clockwork. This went on for weeks. We are talking about blatant and totally unambiguous commercial spam on one of the highest-profile Twitter accounts. If they don't even deal with the trivially obvious, what are they going to do about the sophisticated attacks which just so happen to inflate the numbers that affect their revenue?
The precedent I am talking about would be HN moderators getting involved in detective work and in reporting people, a huge and unrewarding task, in this case, for a company that perfectly obviously doesn't care, and is just going to drop the information on the floor. And what are they going to do with one IP address, anyway? I understand your outrage, but it just isn't practical.
If you want to make Twitter do something, outrage directed at their top management, where it belongs, may have an effect, if it gets picked up by the press and starts to affect their share price or advertisers. Even that is a long shot.
Honestly, if you really care, I hope you can find some people building something better and collaborate with them, rather than trying to make Twitter better, which I think is unlikely to ever work.
We know they cost nothing to us, and so, any time we find a website and approach it as a total stranger and create a cheap account quickly, we know other strangers are capable of the same.
So, clearly no substantial population is buying into fake news.
Those that do, are likely also paying hundreds of dollars on craigslist for viagra, using escrow accounts.
But also those ads are more about delivering exploits than actual product sales.
You are part of society. Your obligation is not only to find better ways to stop it but to NOT DO IT. We are all free to make terrible choices that hurt others. That doesn't mean we're compelled to do so because, "Welp, I guess that's just how it goes."
What about those that are struggling to find a place to sleep, not give our lives up to commuting, and pay our student debts?
What about the Rights Approach to ethics? Don't I have a right to be able to eat?
What I am saying is that we as a society (but mostly the leadership of Twitter) should act to make their service not a Common ground to be exploited.
Numbers come from their 2016 Q3 filing
For example, as I type this BotOrNot estimates that 34% of @RealDonaldTrump followers, and 48% of @BarackObama followers, are real.
Just from being a nobody on Twitter who uses it almost every day, I'd also agree that 5% is laughably optimistic.
Its pretty clear what the bot guys get out of it, pay to promote services, pay for followers, etc. They can monetize "fame" through the robotic horde. But as this article and ones before it point out, these networks are generally quite easy to spot. So why not take them out?
It probably isn't because they can pad 'subscriber growth' or 'MAU' numbers, they appear to be only small components of that number. And while I could imagine it may be hard to purge them at the moment, its been a problem long enough that someone in engineering must have figured out a system for taking down large numbers of accounts.
The only thing I can come up with, and it is way too tin-hattish to really count, is that it creates an "observable" for the underside of the Internet. By watching what people are asking the twitter bots to do you can observe other objectives that are perhaps less observable. There are some obvious customers for that but I don't think they actually pay for that (except perhaps by buying access to the Firehose)
Anti-abuse teams tend to be relatively small. We aren't talking hundreds of engineers here, we're talking like maybe 10-15 engineers. When you look at the relative effectiveness of different networks, you can be comparing something as trivial and random as whether one or two people happened to figure out a good strategy or not. There is no need for conspiracy theories.
The costs of accounts on different networks is a reasonable proxy for effectiveness at bot fighting. My favourite site has always been this one:
From a quick check it seems Twitter is getting better at it. Prices used to be more like in the low $20/k range. Now the low end accounts are $45/k and if you want PVAd/profiled it's up near $90. Compare to Gmail where the price is more like $280/k. Or Facebook EN accounts, $120. Good to see my old colleagues doing such a good job!
In the case of Twitter, my view is that their relatively low performance on botting is a side effect of the whole social justice / campus politics movement. I heard from a friend who works there that their focus was switched almost entirely to fighting human abuse like people being nasty to each other, political extremism, terrorism, etc. If you remember, just a few years ago Twitter was being attacked in the media for being filled with trolling and nastyness. So of course that became their priority. Anti-botting took a back seat.
Nowadays there's suddenly a bout of anti-Russian hysteria. Suddenly bots are in focus again. There are conspiracy theories about botted accounts being used to convince people to change their political positions. Having worked in the industry for years I am deeply skeptical about this. I never once saw bots being used for political ends or anything even approaching it. There is a lot of disinformation out there about Russia right now from western sources, and a lot of paranoia that doesn't seem to be justifiable.
I'd guess RT does far, far more to create pro-Russian support than anything happening on Twitter does.
Perhaps there's just more demand?
> Nowadays there's suddenly a bout of anti-Russian hysteria. Suddenly bots are in focus again. There are conspiracy theories about botted accounts being used to convince people to change their political positions. Having worked in the industry for years I am deeply skeptical about this. I never once saw bots being used for political ends or anything even approaching it. There is a lot of disinformation out there about Russia right now from western sources, and a lot of paranoia that doesn't seem to be justifiable.
The fact that you've worked for Google on anti-botting and didn't see the technique you were tasked to counter used for political means might be leaving you biased. Without pointing fingers, I just want to state that there's tremendous political opportunity in spreading misinformation via internet (via any media really), it's amazing that in 2017 this isn't clear for everyone.
And yes, of course my experience of what bots were used for left me "biased" as to what they're used for. How is actual experience bias?
> Per eZanga, 4.3 million—or 39 percent—of Trump's more than 11 million Twitter followers as of August came from fake accounts while the other 6.7 million are actually real users. And for Clinton, 3.1 million—or 37 percent—of her more than 8 million followers were fake while 5.3 million come from real accounts.
350,000 is about 0.1% of Twitter's user base. Does anyone here think the number of fake accounts isn't orders of magnitude higher than that?
The problem with having a user reporting based plan for acting against fake accounts in an environment where the psychological motivations of using the service, if not to disseminate news, or maintain a closet standup comedian habit, is affirmation. In almost every motivation for using the service, the user has an incentive to keep their numbers up, whether they are real or not. A huge part of the game is the number of followers.
Personally I'm just surprised that they've moved from advertising cam sites (which could conceivably act as a secondary, almost passive income) to quoting star wars novels while inflating numbers for people who pay for followers. That's the aspect that confuses me, and makes me feel vulnerable.
Strange that these bots aren't spammy but are posting every minute or two. I wonder what they're for...
Interestingly, #20 hasn't been updated since 26 August last year, and its timeline contains only the two entries "temato" and "mecagoentusmuertos", which are Spanish phrases translating respectively to "I kill you" and "I shit on your dead". Beyond simple unneighborliness, whether they have any significance and what that might be I have to leave as an exercise for the reader, because I have no idea.
See also: https://theawl.com/the-real-weird-twitter-is-espionage-twitt...
They're following the format 'bababa', where 'b' is a random consonant and 'a' is a random vowel.
> Users were barred from writing programs that automatically followed or unfollowed accounts or which "favourited" tweets in bulk, he said.
I am constantly getting followed by accounts with tens or hundreds of thousands of follows and followers, usually checkmarked accounts though I've never heard of them. It's painfully obvious these verified users are using bots to randomly follow people, both to spam my inbox with "you have a new follower" messages and to encourage people to "follow back".
But Twitter does nothing about it. It's not "strictly enforced" at all.
I just search for my domain on Twitter, and there are dozens of "people" who do nothing but retweet hacker news articles. They are presumably doing this for some kind of "reverse" reputation.
I'm interested if anyone has any more insight on this phenomenon. Maybe it's as simple as convincing some naive users to follow them with links vetted as high quality.
https://twitter.com/bartezzini (123K tweets, nothing but HN-type links and comments)
https://twitter.com/EggmanOrWalrus (15.7k tweets, ditto)
Secondly, of course there are this many. There are probably many more. I run several bots myself; there's nothing wrong with this.
Twitter's TOS is only as good as its enforcement, and if there's anything twitter is terrible at, it's having any control over its community.
An anonymous or pseudonymous Twitter account run by a human, in the way that a human is expected to use a Twitter account, is not a fake account: it's real, just pseudonymous. A bot account that's clearly a bot, like @big_ben_clock or @choochoobot, isn't a fake account either: it doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is.
From the article: "These accounts did not act like the bots other researchers had found but were clearly not being run by humans."
One thing a network of fake accounts could be doing is inflating follower counts. A follow from a pseudonymous account that corresponds to an actual human isn't fake. Even a constant factor or constant term from a small number of humans with multiple accounts isn't particularly deceptive. But thousands or millions of follows from accounts run by a handful of humans is deceptive.
Another thing a fake account could be doing is spreading propaganda by creating the impression that many people agree with a political opinion, when these "people" are just canned responses, or humans assisted by automation (but capable of making human replies across large numbers of accounts).
To repeat what I posted: An anonymous or pseudonymous Twitter account run by a human, in the way that a human is expected to use a Twitter account, is not a fake account: it's real, just pseudonymous.
You need to scroll down at least 5 load-more's to see regular people tweets. It's a really terrible user experience that Twitter needs to solve.
I personally don't find much added value in those tweets, "regular people" or not. They're basically YouTube comment level at this point.
I might be wrong, but I don't think we can simulate flame wars yet.
He already had about 250k followers so it wasn't a huge spike in that context but it was interesting to think of the implications of that when you come across a random account with 100k followers and 100 following... they might not be as influential as it seems.
Also this was about a year ago and last I checked his follower account was roughly the same.
Wasn't there a story on HN about a guy who created a fake identity and twitter account with 20k followers and got invited (and paid?) to speak at a tech conference?
So we have 5-9% as a lower bound and perhaps we can look at e-mail for an upper bound with nearly 60% spam by volume.
I don't even use Twitter, and I have 4 different Twitter accounts. The amount of fake accounts must be staggering, but there's no way Twitter will cull them otherwise their MAU numbers will tank, and along with it, their ad rates, etc.
Maybe people are sick of hearing the term.
There also seems to be some confusion about its meaning and its purpose.
The smoking gun. What real person still has one of those.
Disclaimer: I owned a Nokia Lumia 920 for > 2 years.
That said, swarms of Windows Phones does smell funny.
1. Get burner email and phone number
2. Post bot to DO, AWS or run it on a raspi
4. Profit from all those sweet followers.
Many of them look entirely "real" or they can be hilariously obvious. I would bet it is happening on Facebook, Instagram, Snap and any other social network where "value" is derived from followers/eyeballs.
Twitter fake accounts are expected to be counted in MMs.
The problem with this is that while bots can be detected (even if doing so is an arms race) it's much harder to detect "bot" humans.
anyway - the most interesting part here is that they actually managed to fool google, up until this very moment!
google recommended me to view their app.. spam does work !
ps - googling (ironic, i know) 'hitwe app scam' showed me this on the first result:
i am interested in a response from one of google play's spam engineers/managers ..
edit2: it took me 0.5 secs to start sensing that it's a fake-boosted app. a human reviewer at google could have just scanned the top 100x dating apps in a single day and map out the fake apps. what do you think?
Using a network of bots to detect and report obvious bot accounts.
he genuinely didn't know why he was doing it at the time (he'd been heavily involved in gaming Google rankings previously for credit card companies) and it was at significant cost - but he was completely sure at some point it would be useful
And another paper covering the topic:
I remember a twitter bot (name escames me now) which would crawl pastebin and tweet updates when passwords / DBs were leaked. It had lots of followers (security researchers who found it very useful).
Most humans on twitter are boring and waste people's time with youtube style comments. Most bots are spammy and waste time too. Why not allow both and let people decide who they follow/ban?
So I guess this is a product of this.
Having a botnet is now an essential part of building your social media following.