Giant networks of fake twitter users discovered


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"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News

Why I don’t use Twitter: Researchers have discovered the existence of large networks of fake twitter accounts, some numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

The largest network ties together more than 350,000 accounts and further work suggests others may be even bigger. UK researchers accidentally uncovered the lurking networks while probing Twitter to see how people use it. Some of the accounts have been used to fake follower numbers, send spam and boost interest in trending topics.

What this story tells me is that almost everything you read from Twitter is not to be trusted.

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9 comments

  • Chris L

    I never got the whole Twitter thing anyway. Does the whole world really need to know the steak I just had at Outback was the greatest, or that the cashier at the supermarket was kind of rude? Not every thought (especially one that can reasonably be put in 150 characters) should be shared.

  • LocalFluff

    I only follow @realdonaldtrump. And during the intense days around planetary missions, @elakdawalla-
    Some organizations have encouraged employees to use twitter (or similar short messaging system) internally instead of long emails to save time. But I haven’t heard anything good about it.

  • Insomnius

    Twitter makes most of their money from data-mining and narcissism still sells. Were in the age of the Kardashians and the walking dead.

  • Cotour

    “What this story tells me is that almost everything you read from Twitter is not to be trusted.”

    Except what Trump tweets :)

    We all have to admit that Trump to this point in time, not even one week in, is disrupting the status quo in Washington and is fast fulfilling his potential to secure his position among American presidents right at the top. Trump makes Obama look like he was sleeping for eight years, you know, aside from his subversive / leftist activities.

    Like Martha Stewart would say, its a good thing.

  • wayne

    Disrupting the status quo?

    Rence Priebus is Chief of Staff, & DeStefano is head of Personnel.

  • Cotour

    Wayne:

    I mean specifically the status quo in the general Washington / national political population, the people who he has hired to accomplish what must be accomplished is another story. The effects of Trumps recent ACTIONS, not the people that will be executing them, regarding immigration, voting, the wall, business, international relations etc, etc, is up ending, destabilizing and confusing to those who need to be up ended, destabilized and confused, I.E. “the status quo”.

    A new standard is being crafted, those actors that you are concerned about will all have to be watched closely and it will be Trumps responsibility to manage them properly.

  • Garry

    I’m not sure about Twitter, but we know of companies that approach small businesses with websites who want more followers on FaceBook. Give them a few hundred dollars, and you’ll instantly have 3,000 FaceBook accounts that are following your company.

    I had to laugh when one business suddenly lost 3,000 followers when a phony network was discovered and taken apart.

    It’s just another dirty trick, along with have your employees write you Google reviews, writing bad Google reviews on your competitors. . .

    As social media has become more important to small businesses trying to get on the map, more and more means of fraud have evolved.

  • Diane Wilson

    I follow a few people on Twitter, mostly to keep up with a few topics in aerospace and in software engineering. I don’t follow anyone popular, or anything trending, or any actual social stuff. (And a few people I follow do sometimes irritate me with politics, but so far not enough to make me drop them from my feed.)

    Of Twits that I do follow, the closest to any such commentary is @TrumpDBA. Someone is having fun translating Trump-speak into database administration.

    I’m almost entirely a lurker on Twitter. I do not need to time-wasting experience of engaging anyone on conversation there.

  • wodun

    Twitter is a good way to get news and other useful information about diverse subjects but its UI is not the best when you follow hundreds of people. You miss a lot of good tweets and can’t easily follow when someone makes a series of tweets.

    I use it to follow some different topics and engage in debate. The character limit forces you to be concise but also makes it hard to have a detailed conversation.

    What these fake twitter accounts are doing though isn’t just retweeting memes but the accounts are used to sign into commenting platforms like disqus. Good comments from knowledgeable people can hold the writers of articles accountable but too often they get stomped down by comments intended to troll (not just disagree).

    Who is real and who is fake? If they are interacting with you in a meaningful way does it matter why that account was created? When a marketer, or political group, creates accounts to evangelize and engages in debate, a competition of ideas can still take place just as it would with people acting on their own personal interests.

    One of the tactics used by both marketers and bot networks is spreading memes. So if you see a picture and the person doesn’t interact, they might be a bot. But the whole goal is to get people to spread the meme because its funny or has a message. This means that many real people will be reposting these memes.

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