Friday, technology billionAir Elon Musk announced that he was Ending a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter. The reason, he said, is the ongoing dispute over the number of spam accounts on the platform. Now, the question of what constitutes a spam bot account, and how many are currently on Twitter, is likely at the center of the legal battles between Mr. Musk and Twitter over the fraught deal.
What are spam bots?
While they are sometimes called “bots,” “spam,” or “fake accounts,” they all refer to non-genuine accounts that mimic how people use Twitter. Some spam accounts are automated, while others are run by people, which makes detecting them complicated.
Bots can tweet people, share tweets, and be followed and unfollowed by other people, among other things.
Why are spam bots a problem?
Mr. Musk has been concerned about spam bots on Twitter for years. In 2020, he appeared at a Twitter employee event, encouraging the company to do more to prevent and remove spam software.
in Six-paragraph letter On June 6, Mr Musk’s lawyers demanded more information from Twitter, saying the company was “rejecting Mr Musk’s data requests” to reveal the number of fake accounts on its platform. The lawyers said that represented a “clear material breach” of the deal, saying it gave Mr. Musk the right to break the agreement. The next day, Twitter agreed to let Mr. Musk direct access to the “fire hose”, The daily stream of millions of tweets flowing through the company’s network.
Since going public in 2013, Twitter has estimated that nearly 5 percent of its accounts are spam bots. On Thursday, the company told reporters that it removes about 1 million spam bot accounts every day, and shuts down millions more weekly so the people behind the accounts can pass anti-spam tests.
However, the company does allow spam bot accounts, which prefer to be called automated bots, that perform a service. Twitter encourages many of these accounts to label themselves as bots for the sake of transparency. The company argues that many of these accounts perform a useful service.
How are Twitter spam bots used?
Twitter defines good spam bots as automated accounts that “help people find useful, entertaining, and relevant information.” For example, @mrstockbot gives people automated responses when they ask for a quote, and earthquakebot tweets about any earthquake with a magnitude of 5.0 or higher worldwide as it occurs.
But other spam bots are used by governments, companies or bad actors for a number of nefarious purposes. During the 2016 US presidential election, Russia used spam accounts to impersonate Americans and try to sow divisions among American voters.
Spam bots are often found engaging in Twitter scams trying to convince people to send crypto or digital currency to online wallets for prizes that don’t exist. Spam bots are also sometimes used to attack celebrities or politicians and to create a hostile environment for them online.
Kate Conger contributed reporting.