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Up to 350,000 Fake Twitter Accounts Discovered in one Network

     
6:04 pm on Jan 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Researchers say they uncovered a number of large fake account networks, with one having up to 350,000 accounts linked. According to the research, some of the accounts are used to help boost follower numbers, to tweet spam messages, and promote specific interests, amongst other reasons.

It also discovered some of the accounts appeared to be run by bots which act in a different way to a typical bot.

Subsequent to the research being published, they discovered a network with 500,000 linked accounts.

"What is really surprising is our questioning on the whole effort of bot detection in the past years," said Dr Zhou. "Suddenly we feel vulnerable and don't know much: how many more are there? What do they want to do?"

A Twitter spokesman said the social network had clear policy on automation that was "strictly enforced". Up to 350,000 Fake Twitter Accounts Discovered in one Network [bbc.co.uk]
"While we have systems and tools to detect spam on Twitter, we also rely on our users to report spamming," he said.


Rightly so, this automation devalues the system.

If I notice a bot, or spammer following I block them right away. I don't always have time to report them.
6:18 pm on Jan 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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"Anything that can be abused WILL be abused. Human nature." --tangor
9:13 pm on Jan 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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350.000 that's only 0.10% of the total number of Twitte accounts , if I don't make mistake.

However, I wonder how they managed to create that many accounts. I thought that now, you needed a phone number to open an account.
10:19 pm on Jan 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I made a bunch recently. You can use the same phone number for a lot of them. Signup would be challenging to automate, but an army of call center employees could easily work through that amount.
10:20 pm on Jan 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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There are many in the search marketing community with fake twitter followers. A fake twitter account is easy to spot. I've never asked about their fake twitter followers. I just assume they did it to make themselves look more authoritative/important than they actually are.
12:19 am on Jan 25, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@bill : I tried to create a second twitter account , with my cellphone number, and Twitter told me this number was already used by another account. (but I trust you , of-course. I am just saying there might be restrictions , or special "things" additionally)
1:42 am on Jan 25, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Reading this makes me think I'm a member of a rare club - PWATA

(PWATA = People without a Twitter account)


FarmBoy
2:51 am on Jan 25, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The wheels are coming off Twitter, have been for the last few years. Fake accounts, fake followers, etc. etc. etc. The only thing holding this form of social media up at the moment is the MSM .... and at THIS moment (think US elections) even they aren't happy.

These games to promote via robots, and the uncovering of all the shady stuff going on, is one reason why the rest of the internet (ie. those who don't twitter) scratch heads and wonder what the heck is going on.

I've never personally played or tried to use it for my sites. Clients that wanted that functionality have had mixed results. But there's no doubt that things are not quite as they seem.
9:07 am on Jan 25, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I've said it before, and at risk of repeating myself, twitter is not for everyone. It has some really useful aspects, and I use it all the time.

Back on topic: Yes, this is one network, Dimitri, and the report indicates it has discovered more. It all comes down to control, and if people have a habit of following anyone and everyone, some of these networks will gain followers that haven't evaluated the true value of following a particular account.

I don't beleive that twitter has the right kind of tools to spot these networks. If an independent researcher can find them, why can't twitter.
9:40 am on Jan 25, 2017 (gmt 0)

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If I notice a bot, or spammer following I block them right away
How do you tell a follower is a bot?
11:00 am on Jan 25, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Most are easy to spot: Quite often it's a twitter handle that's clearly not been selected, such as a bunch of random letters and numbers making no sense is very obvious. Secondly, look at a few tweets by the follower. Many bots don't have any tweets of value and are just re-tweets of the other bots. The profile is often a give-away: Using an image of a physically attractive person, and the name and content does not match in any way.
12:41 pm on Jan 25, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Hmmm, I've never paid attention to who follows me.

I know bots scrape Twitter for links & images, and I block them at my server, but what harm can they do to my Twitter account?
12:43 pm on Jan 25, 2017 (gmt 0)

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About people following anyone, once I made an experiment, I had a Twitter account(back to the time it didn't require a phone number), and I followed EVERY suggested account showing, no mater what they were about , my account was empty, no tweet, not even image/photo. and I followed like that 10.000 random accounts, and half of them followed me back !
12:54 pm on Jan 25, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I currently have about 47k or 48k followers. I follow no one, never have. Don't have time to read tweets. I just use Twitter as an SMS extention of my website. It brings in a few hundred daily visitors. I could probably get more if I worked harder, but I never saw it as anything more than that.
 

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