Spot the bot

Bots and fake social media accounts started appearing around 2012 and have grown exponentially since then. Over the years many of these bots have amassed hundreds and sometimes thousands of followers – making them look like real people. 

What is a BOT / Fake Social Media Account?

Bots and Fake accounts are accounts which are set up to appear to be someone they are not.  They could be just random name or they could be trying to trick people into believing they are someone else.  A BOT is a software application that interacts with users, it gives the illusion that you are dealing with a human.  Many companies use BOT’s very effectively in performing repetitive or pre-defined tasks. However, BOTs are also used in Social Media to trick other by spreading a particular narrative or misinformation. BOT accounts are programmed to amass a large following and often have a malicious element.

Unfortunately, these bots and fake accounts are being used as a new time of warfare – information and misinformation warfare. 

Twitter reported that over 15% of all Twitter users could be bots in January of 2018. In a study by the Pew Research Centre, they found that ⅔ of all tweeted links had been shared and tweeted by suspected bots. 

 These bots have directly contributed to fake news and conspiracy theories online, with the sole aim of dangerous spread of misinformation. 

Look at Account Names

Celebrity and official accounts across all social media platforms usually come with a blue tick, to verify that they’re legitimate, however, it can be harder to differentiate bots from personal accounts. One example of this kind of bot may be an account impersonating someone else. This person could be someone famous like Donald Trump. An account impersonating Donald Trump may look identical to his official account, but if you look closely there are giveaways that the account is a fake, such as the username being misspelled ‘@donalddtrumpp’. A tell-tale that a personal account is most likely a bot being used to spread misinformation, is the lack of a real name, or a randomly generated twitter handle, usually given away by a string of numbers at the end of the handle.

Identifying a Pattern of Speech

Are their posts reading similarly? Often, bots are run off a single algorithm and are all programmed with identical language and pattern of speech. A giveaway of bot behaviour is if you see multiple accounts with the same tweet, or using an article heading as the body of the tweet. Bots can even tag real people in an attempt to get them involved in the conversations to appear like real people.

Profile Pictures

Does the account you’re looking at have a photo of themselves as their profile picture? No? Then you could be looking at a bot. A simple Google reverse image search will usually help you identify where the photo originated and determine whether or not this account is a bot. This Google reverse image search also works for the content suspicious accounts share. These accounts also circulate doctored or fake images, so doing a reverse image search is a great way of finding out whether or not this account is a trustworthy source of information.

Checking Their Timeline

How often is this account posting? Is it posting 24 hours a day? If an account is posting content every few minutes, or at crazy hours of the night, the probability of it being a bot is high. Most real humans don’t have the time to post 20 plus political tweets per day. Another way to detect a bot is looking at the followers to following ratio. If the account has little to no followers, while its following a few thousand people - you’re most likely looking at a bot.

Don't Take photos or documents at face value

With the technology available in 2022, it’s as easy to doctor an image as it is to post it online. If something doesn’t feel right, take the time to find the source of the image online. Tools such as Googles reverse image search are an easy way of doing so.

Above all else - trust your gut.

If something doesn’t feel right to you, it likely isn’t. If you're looking at a profile that seems off in their behaviours, it could be a bot. Remember to take everything you read online with a pinch of salt!

"Spot the Bot, Stop the Rot"