Why the Rise of Bots is a Concern for Social Networks

Why the Rise of Bots is a Concern for Social Networks
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Former Correspondent, Entrepreneur Asia-Pacific
3 min read

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Social media is quickly becoming the most important tool used for businesses. If you think social media isn’t worth your time then surely you’re missing out on one of the most powerful social media marketing tools available to you. A number of brands have experimented with social bots that can help them improve their customer process. A growing amount of social media content is generated by autonomous entities known as social bots.

Unlike a regular bot, a social bot convinces the other user that it is a real person. The researchers from the University of Southern California and Indiana University found out that between 9% - 15% of active Twitter accounts are bots. Social bots are accounts controlled by software, algorithmically generating content and establishing interactions. The report observes that bots tend to interact with bots that exhibit more human-like behaviours. It further points out the importance of tracking increasingly sophisticated bots, since deception and detection technologies are in a never-ending arms race. The analysis reveals retweet and mention strategies adopted by bots to interact with different target groups.

The research is definitely an alarming news for the social media platform, which had to face a lot of difficulty in increasing its user base to compete with Facebook and Instagram. Also, the increase in social bots will make it difficult for the social network platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to regulate the problem of fake news, hate speech and misinformation.

Bots: Harmless or Dangerous?

The researchers tried large collection of features like friends, tweet content and sentiment, network patterns, and activity time series to identify bots on Twitter. Some bots emulated human behaviour to manufacture fake grassroots political support, promote terrorist propaganda and recruitment, manipulate the stock market and disseminate rumours and conspiracy theories. While on the other hand the bots also performed useful functions, such as dissemination of news and publications and coordination of volunteer activities.

Bots Dominating the Social Networks:

In 2014, Twitter disclosed in a report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, that over 23 million — or 8.5 % of Twitter’s monthly active users were bots.

When talking about bots, Twitter is not the only one fighting this issue. In 2014, Facebook’s fourth-quarter earnings report revealed that between 5.5% - 11.2% Facebook accounts were duplicate, malicious or otherwise ‘fake’. Back in March 2012, the social media giant also said that 5% - 6 % of accounts are false or duplicate. In June 2015, an Italian researchers study found out that 8.2 % of Instagram’s 300 million users were bots. 

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