Automated bots can not only evade detection but gather followers and become influential among various social groups, say computer scientists who have let their bots loose on Twitter.
If you have a Twitter account, the chances are that you have fewer than 50 followers and that you follow fewer than 50 people yourself. You probably know many of these people well but there may also be a few on your list who you’ve never met.
So here’s an interesting question: how do you know these Twitter users are real people and not automated accounts, known as bots, that are feeding you links and messages designed to sway your opinions?
You might say that bots are not very sophisticated and so easy to spot. And that Twitter monitors the Twittersphere looking for, and removing, any automated accounts that it finds. Consequently, it is unlikely that you are unknowingly following any automated accounts, malicious or not.
If you hold that opinion, it’s one that you might want to revise following the work of Carlos Freitas at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil and a few pals, who have studied how easy it is for socialbots to infiltrate Twitter.
Their findings will surprise. They say that a significant proportion of the socialbots they have created not only infiltrated social groups on Twitter but became influential among them as well. What’s more, Freitas and co have identified the characteristics that make socialbots most likely to succeed.