Lakhs of fake accounts on Twitter and why they could be dangerous
In what could open up new fronts to the opaque world of social media, a new research has suggested that huge collections of fake accounts are lying dormant on Twitter.
While the researchers have not given a specific number, but they have said that the number of such accounts is surely more than 350000.
The researchers from UK came to know about the dormant accounts while exploring trends in which people use Twitter.
The researchers have also said that the purpose for which these accounts could be used is to add fake follower numbers, send spam tweets and boost interest in trending topics.
In Twitter terminology, such accounts are also known as bots. The bots can be used to automate messages, automate retweets and follow accounts- all based on certain keywords that have to be fed the bots.
"It is difficult to assess exactly how many Twitter users are bots," BBC quoted Juan Echeverria, a team member of the research group and a computer scientist at UCL.
The subject of Echeverria's research was a sample 1 per cent of Twitter users. Another interesting result that came out of this research is that a lot of such accounts are linked together. So while these accounts may not exactly be bots, they are not being run by humans as well.
To develop a better understanding of the dynamics of social media, the researchers have now asked people to report bots as they spot them. Bots can be spotted by various factors that are similar in them like they have been created recently, have very few followers, have strange user names and have very little content in their messages.
The other similarities found in the network of 350,000 bots include tweets coming from places where nobody lives, messages being posted only from Windows phones and almost exclusively including quotes from Star Wars novels.
"It was amazing and surprising to discover the massive networks. Considering all the efforts already there in detecting bots, it is amazing that we can still find so many bots, much more than previous research," Dr Zhou, a senior lecturer from UCL who oversaw Mr Echeverria's research told the BBC.
Given that someone can possess such a huge network of bots can be damaging especially Twitter is seen as the platform which is used by politicians, celebrities, activists, and all important people from various sections of life.
BBC also quoted a Twitter spokesman saying that the social network had clear policy on automation and it was being strictly enforced. But there seems a long way to go!