Explainer: What are these spam bots that Elon Musk has vowed to defeat or die trying?

Billionaire Elon Musk on Friday put his planned $44 billion acquisition of Twitter Inc on hold as he awaited details on the microblogging platform’s claim that fake accounts comprise less than 5 percent of users.

Musk, who has made removing fake Twitter accounts and spam bots the focus of his acquisition plan, said if he buys the social media platform, he will “defeat spam bots or die trying.”

He has consistently blamed the company’s excessive reliance on advertising for the relentless spread of spam bots.

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Twitter, like other social media companies, has been fighting spam bots in recent years through software that detects and blocks them.

So what are spam bots and what counts as a fake Twitter account?

Spam bots or fake accounts are designed to artificially manipulate or boost activity on social media platforms like Twitter.

If accounts on the platform engage in “massive, aggressive, or deceptive activities that mislead people,” these activities are considered platform manipulation, according to company policy.

Overlapping accounts sharing similar content, mass account signups, use of automated or coordinated accounts to create fake engagements, and sharing of followers are listed as violations of Twitter’s spam policy.

A Twitter survey across four countries showed that users’ biggest concern was “too many bots or fake accounts.”

How does Twitter detect fake accounts?

Twitter has a team that identifies real people and bots on its platform. The company uses machine learning and researchers to recognize patterns of malicious activity.

The algorithms challenge through 5 million to 10 million accounts per week.

Twitter, however, allows parody, newsfeed, comment, and fan accounts, as long as they reveal the nature of the account in the bio.

What does Twitter do with fake accounts?

When Twitter detects a fake account, it can either block the account or seek verification. In case of multiple accounts, the user may be asked to maintain one.

Are all bots bad?

Twitter believes that not all bots are bad and has launched a label to tag the good ones.

“Who doesn’t love a bunch of robots that promise not to rebel against us?” the company’s Twitter security handle tweeted in September of last year.

Good bots allow automated accounts to share useful information like traffic updates and COVID-19 updates.

“Knowing who is real is critical to the integrity of the Internet,” said Tamer Hassan, CEO of cybersecurity firm HUMAN.

“When it comes to managing the threat that sophisticated bots pose to organizations, most companies try not to lose. Defensive strategies focus on minimizing damage rather than playing to win.”

Why does Musk hate spam bots?

Musk, a self-proclaimed free speech absolutist, wants Twitter to become a forum for free speech, which he believes is “the foundation of a functioning democracy,” and sees spam bots as a threat. for this idea.

In a recent TedX interview, Musk said his top priority was to take down “bot armies” on Twitter, calling out bots promoting cryptocurrency-based scams on Twitter.

“They make the product much worse. If I had a Dogecoin for every crypto scam I saw, we’d have 100 billion Dogecoin.”

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