Grad Student Exposes Massive Network Of Over 350,000 Fake Twitter Accounts

Tyler Durden's picture

A computer scientist in London has stumbled upon massive networks of fake Twitter accounts - with the largest consisting of over 350,000 profiles - which may have been used to 'fake' numbers of followers, send spam, and boost interest in trending topics.

On Twitter, bots are accounts that are run remotely by someone who automates the messages they send and activities they carry out.

Some people pay to get bots to follow their account or to dilute chatter about controversial subjects.

As The BBC reports, UK researchers accidentally uncovered the lurking networks while probing Twitter to see how people use it.

The network of 350,000 bots stood out because all the accounts in it shared several subtle characteristics that revealed they were linked. These included:

  • tweets coming from places where nobody lives
  • messages being posted only from Windows phones
  • almost exclusively including quotes from Star Wars novels

It was "amazing and surprising" to discover the massive networks, said Dr Shi Zhou, a senior lecturer from UCL who oversaw Mr Echeverria's research.

"Considering all the efforts already there in detecting bots, it is amazing that we can still find so many bots, much more than previous research," Dr Zhou told the BBC.


"It is difficult to assess exactly how many Twitter users are bots," said graduate student Juan Echeverria, a computer scientist at UCL, who uncovered the massive networks.

Mr Echeverria's research began by combing through a sample of 1% of Twitter users in order to get a better understanding of how people use the social network.

However, analysis of the data revealed some strange results that, when probed further, seemed to reveal lots of linked accounts, suggesting one person or group is running the botnet. These accounts did not act like the bots other researchers had found but were clearly not being run by humans.

His research suggests earlier work to find bots has missed these types of networks because they act differently to the most obvious automated accounts.

The researchers are now asking the public via a website and a Twitter account to report bots they spot to help get a better idea of how prevalent they are. Many bots are obvious because they have been created recently, have few followers, have strange user names and little content in the messages.

"Their potential threats are real and scary due to the sheer size of the botnet," he said.

A Twitter spokesman said the social network had clear policy on automation that was "strictly enforced".

Perhaps not...

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newworldorder's picture

When Bernie allowwed BLM to close his speaking appearance, that was the moment I knew he was the paid opposition to Hillary.

detached.amusement's picture

half the ideas he had were less than meat headed to begin with

lie_to_me's picture

Wall of meat-heads maybe.

Frito's picture

Maybe not a wall. How about curtains. ... Meat curtains.


Got a lake house though

earlyberd's picture

If I got paid $200K per year, I'd buy a waterside home as well. Loans are cheap for Senators.


Oh noes, he buys things with the money he makes. Who knew?

shovelhead's picture

And that Wall of Meat was just from the shoulders up.

NumNutt's picture

I think we have a few on here, and they are all pro Obama...

earlyberd's picture

Would it surprise anyone if we discovered that Clinton was using these during her campaign?

What if Trump was using them as well?

Shocking, I know.

NRGIsFree's picture

So who are these 350k "people" following. That would be really nice to know. I speculate they are all folloeing the same Comunists. 

Skiprrrdog's picture

Someone said to me the other day (being serious) "why do we even need the MSM if we have Twitter". Yikes. Thanks to the internet, our evolutionary decline into full frontal idiocracy has had the timeline accelerated by 500-1000 years...

buzzsaw99's picture

i feel so dirty and used. lulz

disclaimer: i have no fb account. never have, never will.

disclaimer 2: i closed my twitter account. don't know why i was thinking fake facebook accounts and other shenanigans. that could never happen. lulz 2

newworldorder's picture

There are many like you. Ever wonder if you are being tracked through alternate souces?

Publicus_Reanimated's picture

We are all being tracked.  In the early days the people running these programs for the gov't. weren't very smart.  Now they have some really clever, really evil people looking at the holistic picture.  You are tracked by what you do not do as well as by what you do.  If it doesn't fit the "normal" profile for your demographic, you are flagged.

I remember in the '60s if a kid in school said "I don't watch television" everybody knew he was weird.  Apply the same concept today, you'll understand.

LawOfBass's picture

I assume that a profile has been built on me by the powers that be.  Why wouldn't this be done?  Maybe phone and email has not been intergrated into the profile, yet, but surely travel, vacationing, purchases, shooting range? ammo purchases? TV/MOVIE/YOUTUBE, library (lol), internet (ZH!), GPS?!.  This paints a clear enough picture to put me in a certain bucket.  Now, link me w/the people I associate with and triangulate (very easy to do) and a much clearer picture is created.  Add in messages posted to websites and it gets even clearer.  Now, go read my email and you have me.  If 'they' want control, why would they not want to know exactly who I am and who I associate with?  Know your enemy. 

Lots of people go to lengths to hide from 'them' but I don't care enough to go to the trouble.  I feel that it's rather pointless.  Kind of like the political state of this country.  This is, hopefully, obvious.  

south40_dreams's picture

Probably a bunch of twits

SpanishGoop's picture

100% are fake accounts except Donald's.


trippy64's picture

How is this company's market cap as high as it is? It should be about 1% of where it is.

TheVoicesInYourHead's picture

SNB and BOJ bots automatically print cash and buy it, and everything else, if it dips too far.

hotrod's picture

Hahahloolol   Just like the number of Facebook users is BS.  Including the numbers that buy stuff off FB.

orangegeek's picture

Facebook audit would be a good idea too.

In.Sip.ient's picture

" which may have been used to 'fake' numbers of followers, send spam, and boost interest in trending topics.

...dilute chatter about controversial subjects. "


Does any of this actually come as news to you?



Doesn't it sound like business as usual on the Internet?


Fake news and all...



adr's picture

The only number of accurate internet followers I can believe is the hot chick on Chaturbate that sticks anything you ask her to in her VJ.

Emergency Ward's picture

I don't usually ask for a link, but....(just kidding)

shovelhead's picture

Unless she can make a bowling ball disappear...

stinkypinky's picture

Those aren't bots. They're perfectly legitimate users who were seduced into buying Windows phones with that super-catchy cross promo they ran in rural areas for the recent Star Wars movies.

BSHJ's picture

They will not get me!  I have never seen a Star Wars movie....maybe one of these days.

user2011's picture

wait till they check on facebook.


TheVoicesInYourHead's picture

Likely a fake/disinformation news plant.

The actual number of bots on twatter is probably >90% of the so-called "monthly active users" claimed.

Elmo Blatch's picture

My Twitter account was hacked the first day. I deleted it and within minutes it was back up. It took Twitter's IT several times to delete it. Never again.

fishwharf's picture

Twit: First known use 1530.

Twitter: Founded by twits in 2006

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

They're not "Fake".  No IT or 'Russian' hacking was involved.

They are Alternate Ego accounts. 

It's like having a ZH ID, in addition to your "daily life ID".

DaBard51's picture

source: BBC





When nine hundred years old you become, look this good you will not.

KimAsa's picture

That does wonders for their ad conversion rate.ø

falak pema's picture

Wow, no wonder the Duck uses twitter to run "make america great" !

angry_dad's picture
angry_dad (not verified) Jan 27, 2017 3:12 PM

the crooked dems relied on the + polls based on the click farm views and the results spoke for themselves about the social media opinions

Happily, there is only 1 TRUMP twitter account and EVERYBODY reads it


Skiprrrdog's picture

But but but... I NEED those accounts; I have PUBLIC and I have PRIVATE opinions... 350K of them...

dude duderson's picture

Imagination land has been compromised, abort!

silverer's picture

The UK, eh? Likely came from there. They are propaganda experts.

Hobbleknee's picture

It's common knowledge that you can buy twitter followers by the tens of thousands, and only a fool would think they're real people. Google "buy twitter followers" and you'll see.

Rentier88's picture

You can buy any hype or so called fame on any 'social media' network.  Just like clowns that try make themselves popular on farcebook buying likes or friends by the thousands.

Jubal Early's picture

or to dilute chatter about controversial subjects.

This is what its about.  Its like a A10 or Apache spewing out chaff as they scream in for close combat support.

MarsInScorpio's picture

Hmmm . . . as a court-certified expert witness in the state courts and the corresponding federal courts in Florida, my first thought is that Twitter itself is running the botnet.

Why? To drive up advertising rates which are based on eyeballs supposedly seeing the advertising messages.

Additionally, it gives Twitter a way of burying any political messages it doesn't endorse by Tweeting it into oblivion. The two most obvious ways of doing this is to 1) slime the message it doesn't like with thousands of "objections" to the message content; 2) Put other topics into the trending list and move them up while the honest numbers of the disrespected tweet appear minuscule, and therefore, moved down the trending ranks.

We all know Twitter is an ultra-liberal, Left-Wing Fringe corporation psychopathically without any shame for its extremist totalitarian-doctrine, and elitist philosophy, that is implemented by the IT shock troops of the amoral Globalists. It is pretending to be a neutral social media corporation. This lie is another irrefutable example of the complete moral bankruptcy and absolute hypocrisy of the so-called "progressives," who are, in actuality, dictator wannabes - because in their depraved minds they are, "superior in intelligence, educated by the greatest minds on Earth, given opportunities to transform humanity into the image of themselves."

Or in plain street English: assholes.

Jubal Early's picture

Or in plain street English: assholes.

Or in plain street English: CIA assholes.  They created and use twitter for this purpose, among others.  It is Bernays on steroids.  They can create memes and let them die in a snap.

JustPastPeacefield's picture

Anyone who has ever watched JD being interviewed knows one thing - he's an asshole.

TalkToLind's picture

I mentioned here the other day how Twitter is a sewer. Now you are seeing the turds float to the top, 350,000 of them and they are steaming.

desertboy's picture

Perception management through Twitter bots is just the beginning.

Check out Microsoft AI bots:

Philip K Dick's reality is just around the corner.


NoBillsOfCredit's picture

It is not really Artificial Intelligence but Simulated Intelligence...

SilvaDolla's picture

I only have a Twitter as one of my band's social hubs as required by discerning would-be record executives.

@Plvnet has almost 8,000 Twitter Followers while our FarceBook has about 1,900 Likes. We can post something to FB and get an average 18-20 genuine interactions out of it and silmutaneously Tweet it and feel COMPLETELY INVISIBLE.

Moreover, about 2 months ago, our Twitter follows were cut DRASTICALLY. It went from 8,000(ish) down to just over 5,000 overnight and just as magically/suddenly it went back up 3-4 days later.

The worst part was that the incident laid waste to our rankings on various music related social hubs like ReverbNation that were linked to our Twitter. I'm not sure that part ever recovered.

Somehow, Twitter has managed to be a bigger fraud than FB.