How bots are tricking you

How bots are tricking you. By Alex Kriel in the The Light Australia, Issue 4.

Do you sometimes turn on social media and wonder, how on earth can that message, or that individual be so incredibly popular?

As a case in point, Gary Lineker recently tweeted out the inane statement that ‘Scotland is very beautiful’, and that pearl of wisdom received an astounding 27,000 likes on Twitter. Did twenty-seven thousand people have nothing better to do than like this fatuous statement? In fact, almost everything that Gary Lineker writes achieves this outlandish level of praise.

In our research work, we have found that in many cases where the level of popularity doesn’t seem credible, the answer is often because individuals and certain messages are amplified by bots.

There is a lot of debate over the size of the bot problem; Twitter only accepts that up to five per cent of its 229 million monetisable daily active users are spam accounts, but in data-science circles, many estimates are well over half (our own estimate is around 80 per cent of politics-related likes and retweets are automated or produced by activists)….

A simple scroll through the ludicrous 35.6 million followers that Joe Biden has on Twitter will show thousands of bot followers hidden below a number of legitimate followers.

Generally, left-of-centre political messages receive a lot of amplification; typical topics will include vaccine mandates and state intervention in the economy. …

The purpose of falsifying the popularity of a particular message (or individual) is to create the false impression that there is popular support for it. In the language of nudging, this is called establishing norms … [which] is considered to be important because we are strongly influenced by what others do….

In social media, there are more mundane business objectives, with a number of charlatans having their accounts boosted by bots to create a media presence.

In addition to dishonestly promoting certain messages, the bots also put genuine content at a serious disadvantage, since in the absence of bot amplification, genuine traffic with relatively fewer likes can appear at the bottom of timelines, and will never feature in the trending section.

This deliberate strategy was referred to in the Event 201 pandemic planning exercise carried out in October 2019 as ‘flooding the zone’. This ensures that only the official state position is heard, both in broadcast and on social media.

So the next time that you see a strange idea, or unlikely individual basking in social media adulation, don’t get confused, but do wonder instead whether this outcome was achieved using automated bot traffic.


hat-tip Joanne