Technology

Twitter bots appear to be be in line with the company’s estimate of below 5% — but you wouldn’t know it from how much they tweet, researchers say

  • Fewer than 5% of monetizable user accounts on Twitter are controlled by bots, according to digital intelligence provider Similarweb.
  • But bots still account for around 21%-29% of US content on Twitter.

Since July, Elon Musk has been having second thoughts about his decision to buy Twitter, leading up to his intention to quash the $44 billion deal. One of his concerns, he says, is the number of spam “bots” running rampant on the platform.

Musk says he believes that bots comprise upwards of 20% of accounts on Twitter.

Twitter, meanwhile, says that the number of bots on the platform is marginal — less than 5%.

Research published Thursday by the digital intelligence provider Similarweb seems to corroborate Twitter’s claims — even though the amount of tweets generated by those bots may make it appear otherwise.

Bots are automated accounts that help drive traffic on Twitter. They operate just like accounts controlled by human users— retweeting posts, liking posts, and following other accounts.

Bots affect a metric known as mDAU, or monetized daily active users. However, the more bots there are, the fewer actual, human mDAUs there are. Ultimately, advertisers, marketing agencies, and companies want to reach real humans.

In Similarweb’s study, the method wasn’t to find the ratio of bots but to instead estimate the number of real human users, according to the company’s CTO Ron Asher.

He added that “in a nutshell” Similarweb’s data supports the finding that Twitter’s estimates are reasonable.

Yet the study also found a grain of truth in Musk’s claims.

Similarweb reported that 20%-29% of content in the US on Twitter is generated by bots. The study also found that only 19% of real, authenticated Twitter users in the US generate content everyday.

Similarweb noted that “not all bots are evil” — but some can pose serious threats.

“The issue is more with bots that evade that officially sanctioned path, faking human interaction. Often, they do this so they can artificially inflate sentiment for and against stocks, products, politicians, or causes,” Similarweb noted. “Twitter says it tries to identify and eliminate as many of these frauds as possible but admits those countermeasures are not perfect.”

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