Researchers Unveil Mysterious Army of Twitter Bots

Twitter has quickly become one of the world’s largest social networks, allowing people from all over the world to share content, opinions, and thoughts. Unfortunately, this popular network is also being used for more nefarious purposes. Fake Twitter accounts are nothing new, yet it appears these “armies” are growing in size. Researchers uncovered 350,000 Twitter bots, all of which are looking to join forces in order to cause havoc in one way or another.

What Is Lurking Below The Surface of Twitter?

In most cases, fictitious Twitter accounts will do no harm. Most of these bots are used to boost the follower numbers of specific accounts, making them seem more “worthwhile” compared to others. They can also be used to retweet specific messages in the hopes of specific context going viral. However, it appears not all of these fake profiles are harmless.

University College of London researchers uncovered a digital army of 350,000 Twitter bots, all of which are hiding in plain sight. What is rather intriguing is how they all enjoy tweeting quotes from the Star Wars novels and movies. Moreover, the researchers feel this digital army was put on his radar to warn people about what the future may hold.

One telling sign is how most of these fake profiles send tweets from uninhabited locations. The researchers found out several tweets came from the middle of the ocean, or even the desert. Additionally, the vast majority of the tweets broadcasted by this army originated from a Windows phone device, which only adds more mystery to this story. Geotagging tweets to uninhabited locations seems very strange, yet also gives these fake profiles an allure of existing in the real world.

Having so many accounts linked to the same individual – or perhaps a group of people – is quite troublesome. It remains unclear what the motive behind this digital army of Twitter bots is, or why they have been kept dormant for an extended period of time. That being said, it is possible someone invested some money in setting up such a network of bots and is now reaping the benefits from it. What those benefits are, remains a mystery as well.

Such vast armies of Twitter accounts can have major appeal for enterprises and other entities relying on social media activity for marketing purposes. Thousands of fake accounts can generate enough buzz around a topic or product, and even send it trending worldwide with relative ease. It is even possible a digital army can influence the public opinion on controversial issues.

Last but not least, the older a Twitter account is, the more “perceived value” it has, according to the researchers. All of these 350,000 spam accounts have been created in 2013, and some of them may have been sold to the highest bidder already. It is highly likely other Twitter bot armies have not been discovered yet. The bigger question is what the end goal for these fake profiles will be.

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