Call it the attack of the bots. The majority of tweets linking to the most popular websites are not handled by human beings, but bots that post content without human involvement. That’s the findings of a Pew Research Center random sampling of 1.2 million tweets last year to answer this question:
“What proportion of tweeted links to popular websites are posted by automated accounts, rather than by human users?” – Question posed by Pew Research Study
Key Finding from Pew Research Center study:
- 66% of all tweeted links to the most popular websites are likely posted by automated accounts, rather than human users
- 89% of tweeted links to popular aggregation sites are bot posts
- The 500 most active suspected bot accounts make up 22% of the links.
It sounds bad, but that’s not always the case.
Sometimes it’s done for speed: automatically tweeting something that’s been posted to a website. It’s a way to get breaking news and information out immediately to social media channels when it’s posted to your site.
I use bots to automatically push my new WordPress posts on my website out to social. It save me time. I post once, and it automatically sends links to my content to Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, and a number of other lesser known sites. I also have aggregators that comb through blogs for specific combinations of keywords and automatically post to my Twitter account in order to keep a regular flow of information. Because I’ve hand-picked the content categories and keywords, I make sure they are news items of interest to my followers.
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You can read more about the study, along with the political leanings of Twitter bots here.
Fake Accounts and Bots are Proliferating Online; Social Media Companies Aren’t Stopping Them
Let’s say you were able to positively identify more than 15,000 fake social media accounts. You reported a significant number of them to social media platforms as fake. Nearly a month later, who many do you think would still be on the platform?
If you said 95% of the fake accounts were remaining online, you’d be right.
The NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence did just that. In a report, the organization said it bought engagement and followers on social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. Spending less than $350, they acquired more than 25,000 likes, 20k in views, 5,100 followers, and more than 3,500 comments to content.
There were able to back check out of the accounts associated with the purchase and uncovered more than 18,000 accounts that were fakes. When they reported the fake accounts, they noted that after three weeks, 95% of the accounts were still on the various social platforms.
“Self-regulation is not working,” the group said. “The manipulation industry is growing year by year. We see no sign that is becoming significantly more expensive or more difficult to conduct wide-spread social media manipulation.”
GRAPHIC: NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence
Here were the key points they made about the “black market” for social media manipulation:
- The scale is greater than previously reported
- It is an easily accessible marketplace, openly advertising on major platforms.
- Russian providers dominate the social media manipulation market.
- They identified hundreds of providers and significant revenue.
I did a couple of quick Google searches myself and found dozens of companies that say they’ll provide “real and authentic” social media followers, but appear to be selling fake followers. Some of these companies have been around for years and are still operating.
FYI: The NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence is not affiliated with the NATO Command Structure, but their website says they contribute to “improved strategic communications capabilities” for NATO, NATO allies, and NATO partners.