Night of the Twitter bots!

Filed in Internet, Social media, Twitter by on August 20, 2011

About 9pm Friday evening (Dubai time) my email inbox began filling up with ‘now following you’ email alerts from @spotonpr‘s Twitter account. My first thought was somebody must have name-checked us somewhere, perhaps a #FollowFriday thing, but a quick look at the Twitter handles showed that these were fake accounts (each account’s handle was first name + random letters). @Marquittaukykz, @Sumikobufdj, @Nakeshajyflj, @Cathleenvxexu, @Corinnevchtr and many others. No problem, I’ll delete them. We like to keep our follower list tidy and also feel  a responsibility towards other Twitter users to block and / or report obviously fake Twitter users.

After blocking the first twenty fake Twitter followers, and returning to my email, I found another inbox full of now following you alerts. This was not normal. Something was directing dozens of fake Twitter accounts to follow us automatically, and at some speed. And all the Twitter account holder names had one thing in common: they were female names. In fact, all the fake Twitter users had female names, a high quality profile pic and a somewhat unique profile bio including such gems as “”I love my art. Music is a big part of my life. I like to do stupid things at random moments.” and “I love sports ok just baseball and U F C fights lol Im a nice person kinda we all have our moments so basicly im a real woman”.

Fake Twitter accounts using auto-follow bots are nothing new. Bots are not always malicious, but there are nearly always downsides to using a ‘legit’ Twitter bot and the fact is that any automation of your Twitter account can make it appear automated and so less trustworthy. However, last night’s bots consisted of an automated script that followed hundreds or thousands of Twitter users in the hope that some of the users follow back. These bots seemed to be more discriminating than usual, mainly targeting Twitter accounts with comparable numbers of users followed and following (more than likely to find Twitter accounts that use auto-follow-back bots that way).

347 fake Twitter accounts followed @spotonpr last night! All in the space of a couple of hours (we reckon about 2-3 every minute). No harm done, but a lot of fake accounts are set up with malicious intent, so you be careful out there!

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Carrington Malin

About the Author ()

Carrington Malin is co-founder of Spot On and has been managing sales, marketing, media and communications campaigns across the Middle East for more than 20 years. He likes technology, surfing and chicken liver salad. You can contact Carrington via Twitter at @carringtonmalin or via his website

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