I spent some time reading the article The Rise of Twitter Bots published in the New Yorker. I very much recommend reading it if the word BotNet is new to you. The author – Bob Dubbin – spends sometime briefing the reader on what Twitter bots are and includes some anecdotes on different twitter bots and how they were developed ( This is especially important for me because of my work with Twitter bots and the lack of academic writing on social bots) . It was eye-opening for me to learn how some of these Twitter bots get developed and then sent into the wild to spam users. In the article, Exosaurs , (which is a bot created on Twitter) was given as an example of such bots. However, there are a lot more (e.g. @everyunicode) out there that were developed to spam users by integrating available datasets. Personally, the most interesting example shown in this article was the twitter bot that praises Fox new and includes the #PraiseFox: RealHumanPraise. The bot gained 31,000 followers in no time by real account.
It is important to realize that when bots like these might not be very harmful – other than spamming your twitter feed with a random tweet every 2 min – it could still harm or impact public opinion when used by governments in political unrest (e.g. Syrian Civil war) . Also, Bot creators are now becoming very good at developing extremely sophisticated Bots in a way that would make the tweets sound human-like.
I am excited that the Twitter bots are being brought to surface because I am sure with the rise of twitter bots we will encounter different ways in which these Bots will be employed in non traditional ways (e.g. marketing, politics ). As I mentioned earlier, this article is important to me and to other researchers working in this field because of the lake of reporting in this relatively new phenomenon. Currently, I am working on what we assume to be a Political Twitter BotNet with my team at the University of Washington.
I would like to hear from you, what did you think of the article?