It is not news that Twitter has had a growth slump over the years and also, it is not news that we suspected that a big percentage of Twitter accounts were bots. We are not sure about the scale of the bot army on Twitter, but a research paper has shed light on its magnitude.
According to a research paper done by Southern California and Indiana University, they estimate that between 9-15% of active Twitter accounts are bots. Since they announced in the last investor briefing that they have 319 million active users so far, this pegs the number to a high of 48 million, which is not tiny by any means.
The researchers used a framework that apparently used more than a thousand features to identify these Twitter bots. They also found that there are three distinct bot groups: Spammers, self promoters and accounts that post content from connected applications.
That is not all. The researchers also found out that there is a possibility of “very sophisticated bots that can systematically escape a human annotator’s judgement” which means that even that 15% estimate could be conservative. Also, there was evidence of hybrid human-bot accounts that do automated tasks but with human supervision.
This points to a big problem to Twitter in how they are managing the bot problem. The fact that there is a relatively large percentage of ‘active’ users masquerading as bots can hurt their finances in the long run. Although we have useful bots that disseminate news, it is crucial for the company to reveal the exact extent so that we don’t feel like Twitter is a place to interact only with bots.