Twitter account exposes likely political bots

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Quartz has developed a new Twitter account that crawls the platform for political tweets and rates how likely they were to have been tweeted by bots.

The account, @probabot_, uses a tool called botometer which takes advantage of machine learning methods to figure out how likely that the account in question is a bot.


The account has assessed 34 tweets so far and each has at least a 60 percent chance of being a bot — a fake, automated account — according to its botometer score.

Each account is following hundreds of other users, and some accounts have been on Twitter for as long as five years.  

Twitter has had a longstanding problem with bots on its platform, but the company has said that it’s working to mitigate this in the wake of revelations that foreign actors may have used bots to try to influence the 2016 presidential election.

In a blog post following its briefing of House and Senate Intelligence committee members on the matter, the company said its systems “catch more than 3.2 million suspicious accounts globally per week,” and it reports that fake accounts make up less than 5 percent of its active users per month.

Critics say that despite Twitter’s rhetoric and action on the matter, the company has incentive to not strongly address the problem since bots count toward its total number of users which it can use to tout the size and value of its network.

The company is slated to face questions over this from lawmakers during back-to-back public hearings with the House and Senate Intelligence committees next Wednesday.

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