The Bots At Heart Of Elon Musk’s Twitter Buyout Row

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Elon Musk suspended his Twitter deal plan over spam

San Francisco:

Elon Musk’s suspension of his bid to buy Twitter over questions about “bots” has put artificially exploited accounts at the center of the latest controversy over the proposed deal.

The software is so common and can be such a problem that tech giants like Meta, Google, and Twitter have teams dedicated to banning bots and cybersecurity companies sell defenses against them.

Here is an overview of the bots:

Human or software?

At their core, “bots” are software that interacts with online platforms or their users, impersonating real people, said Tamer Hassan, co-founder and head of cybersecurity firm HUMAN.

Malicious bots have become sophisticated and are among the top cyber threats of this decade, said Hassan, whose company specializes in distinguishing people from online software.

The term bots on Twitter is often used to describe fake accounts, powered by a version of artificial intelligence, that can trigger posts and even react to what is posted by others, independent analyst Rob Enderle said. .

Tickets and bustle

Bots are used in more than three-quarters of security and fraud incidents that occur online, from spreading messages that divide society to buying hot concert tickets and hacking, Hassan told the AFP.

“The question is, what would you do if you could look like a million humans?” Hassan asked rhetorically.

“Across all social media platforms, bots can be used to spread content to influence people’s opinions, elicit reactions and can even lead to cybercrime.”

Bots can be used on social media to widely spread fake news, direct users to misinformation, direct people to specious websites, and popularize fake posts using shares or likes.

Social media bots can also lure people into financial scams, Hassan added.

“Social media platforms have had bots for a long time,” said analyst Enderle. “The bots have been connected to attempts to influence US elections and shape opinions on Russia’s war on Ukraine.”

The agreement with Twitter

Twitter makes its money from ads, and marketers pay to reach people, not software.

“Advertising to bots will not have a good close rate because bots are not buying products,” Enderle noted.

If advertisers pay Twitter fees based on the number of people who see ads, and those numbers are inflated due to bots in the online audience, they’re being overcharged, Enderle added.

If Twitter has way more bots than it lets on, its revenue could plummet when those accounts are exposed and shut down.

Twitter Chief Executive Parag Agrawal said less than 5% of active accounts on Twitter on any given day are bots, but this analysis cannot be replicated externally due to the need to keep user data private .

Musk indicated that the actual number of bots could be four times higher and said he would make removing them a priority if he owned the platform.

Twitter has rules on automated actions by accounts, including prohibiting software from posting on current topics, spamming, attempting to influence online conversations, and operating on multiple accounts.

Bots are a known problem on social media, and for Musk to make it a sticking point so late in the acquisition process seems like “a way to escape the purchase or get a lower price “, Enderle said.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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