What are spambots and why they're a problem in Elon Musk's Twitter deal

Friday, the technological billion aire Elon Musk announced that he was end a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter. The reason, he said, was ...


Friday, the technological billionaire Elon Musk announced that he was end a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter. The reason, he said, was an ongoing disagreement over the number of spam bot accounts on the platform. Now, the question of what constitutes a spam bot account, and how many currently exist on Twitter, is likely to be at the heart of legal battles between Mr Musk and Twitter over the difficult settlement.

Although sometimes referred to as “bots”, “spam” or “fake accounts”, all refer to inauthentic accounts that mimic the way people use Twitter. Some spam accounts are automated, but others are managed by people, which makes them difficult to detect.

Bots can tweet about people, share tweets, follow and be followed by other people, among other things.

Mr. Musk has worried about spambots on Twitter for years. In 2020, he appeared at an event for Twitter employees and encouraged the company to do more to prevent and remove spambots.

Since announcing its intention to buy Twitter in April, Mr. Musk repeatedly tweeted about spam bots on the platform. In May, when Parag AgrawalTwitter’s chief executive, tweeted about how the company detects and combats spambots, Mr. Musk responded with a poo emoji.

In a six-paragraph letter On June 6, Mr. Musk’s lawyers requested more information from Twitter, saying the company was “refusing requests for Mr. Musk’s data” to disclose the number of fake accounts on its platform. This amounted to a “manifest material breach” of the agreement, the lawyers continued, saying it gave Mr Musk the right to break the agreement. The next day, Twitter agreed to allow Mr. Musk direct access to its “fire hose”, the daily stream of millions of tweets circulating on the company’s network.

Since its IPO in 2013, Twitter has estimated that around 5% of its accounts are spambots. On Thursday, the company told reporters it was deleting about one million spam bot accounts every day and locking millions more a week until the people behind the accounts could pass spam tests.

However, the company allows spam bot accounts, which it prefers to call automated bots, that perform a service. Twitter encourages many of these accounts to call themselves bots for more transparency. The company argues that many of these accounts provide a useful service.

Twitter defines good spambots as automated accounts that “help people find useful, entertaining, and relevant information.” For example, @mrstockbot gives people automated responses when they ask for a stock quote, and @earthquakebot tweets about any earthquake of magnitude 5.0 or greater around the world when it happens.

But other spambots are used by governments, corporations or malicious actors for many nefarious purposes. During the 2016 US presidential elections, Russia used spambot accounts to impersonate Americans and attempt to sow division among US voters.

Spambots who engage in scams are frequently found on Twitter trying to persuade people to send cryptocurrency, or digital currency, to online wallets for prices that don’t exist. Sometimes spambots are also used to attack celebrities or politicians and create a hostile environment online for them.

Kate Conger contributed reporting.

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Newsrust - US Top News: What are spambots and why they're a problem in Elon Musk's Twitter deal
What are spambots and why they're a problem in Elon Musk's Twitter deal
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