Giant networks of fake twitter users discovered

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

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.


Every July, to celebrate the anniversary of the start of Behind the Black in 2010, I hold a month-long fund-raising campaign to make it possible for me to continue my work here for another year.

This year's fund-raising drive however is more significant in that it is also the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.

This year's fund drive is also more important because of the growing intolerance of free speech and dissent in American culture. Increasingly people who don't like what they read are blatantly acting to blackball sites like mine. I have tried to insulate myself from this tyrannical effort by not depending on Google advertising or cross-posts Facebook or Twitter. Though this prevents them from having a hold on me, it also acts to limit my exposure.

Therefore, I hope you will please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

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  • 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


    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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