Our Paper to CSCW 2015 on Dissecting a Social Bot

Happy New Year! I hope your year is off to a great start…

I would like to share the great news that our paper “Dissecting a Social Botnet: Growth, Content and Influence in Twitter” got accepted at The 18th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2015) which will be held March 14-18, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada.

The paper focuses on one specific social botnet in Twitter to understand how it grows over time, how the content of tweets by the social botnet differ from regular users in the same dataset, and lastly, how the social botnet may have influenced the relevant discussions. Our analysis is based on a qualitative coding for approximately 3000 tweets in Arabic and English from the Syrian social bot that was active for 35 weeks on Twitter before it was shutdown. We find that the growth, behavior and content of this particular botnet did not specifically align with common conceptions of botnets. Further we identify interesting aspects of the botnet that distinguish it from regular users.

If you are attending CSCW 15 this year and you are interested in topics around social technical platforms and automated agents please plan to attend our presentation on Tuesday the 17th of March at 10am (More information on CSCW program page). If you are not planing on attending CSCW15 please feel free to download the paper from the ACM Library and read it. Our team welcomes your questions and comments, therefore don’t hesitate to contact us.

P.S. If you dont have access to ACM Library get in touch with me to provide you a copy.

The ACM citation is

Norah Abokhodair, Daisy Yoo, and David W. McDonald. 2015. Dissecting a Social Botnet: Growth, Content and Influence in Twitter. In Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (CSCW ’15). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 839-851. DOI=10.1145/2675133.2675208 http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2675133.2675208

Thank you!

On the article: The Rise of Twitter Bots : The New Yorker

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?