As the Twitter and Elon Musk’s legal teams prep up for legal battle, worth a whopping $44 billion deal, the two parties’ conflict is actually based on a key issue: Twitter bots.
Twitter has maintained that circa 5% of its users are spam or fake accounts, even in its filings to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Musk tweeted on Woods’ findings
Sure sounds higher than 5%!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 1, 2022
An estimate from Dan Woods, the Global Head of Intelligence at F5 and a former FBI special agent specializing in cybersecurity, suggests that Musk’s claim are spot-on.
In a post, Woods, who also worked for the CIA as a technical operations officer specializing in cyber operations, estimated that over 80% of Twitter’s accounts are actually bots. Woods was able to come to this conclusion after analyzing the social media platform and its countermeasures against automated accounts.
“When I consider the volume and velocity of automation we’re seeing today, the sophistication of bots that a given set of incentives is likely to attract, and the relative lack of countermeasures I saw in my own research, I can only come to one conclusion: In all likelihood, more than 80% of Twitter accounts are actually bots. This, of course, is my opinion,” Woods wrote.
The former FBI agent noted that bots are generally designed to accomplish a goal.
In Twitter’s case, a key goal is to gain followers.
More followers mean that an account becomes more influential, which could potentially be a security risk. What’s interesting is that there’s a means to get bots for Twitter, with countless entities offering Twitter accounts, followers, likes, and retweets for a fee. Some are even offered in the dark or deep web.
For research purposes, Woods tried these services on a Twitter account he created.
The former FBI agent paid less than $1,000, but the account has now gained almost 100,000 followers. Woods even tried posting straight gibberish and paying a fee to have his followers retweet it — and they did. With this experience in mind, Woods took his tests further, and the results were pretty damning for Twitter’s anti-bot measures.
“I began to wonder how easy it would be to create a Twitter account using automation. I am not a programmer, but I researched automation frameworks Turns out, it’s easy.
“I wrote a script that automatically creates Twitter accounts. My rather unsophisticated script was not blocked by any countermeasures. I didn’t try to change my IP address or user agent or do anything to conceal my activities, Woods wrote.