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Huge network of bots found on Twitter

January 24, 2017

Massive collections of fake accounts are lying dormant on Twitter, according to research obtained by the BBC.

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

“It is difficult to assess exactly how many Twitter users are bots,” said Juan Echeverria, a computer scientist at UCL, who uncovered the massive networks.

It was “amazing and surprising” to discover the massive networks, added Dr Shi Zhou, a senior lecturer from UCL who oversaw Echeverria’s research.  “Considering all the efforts already there in detecting bots, it is amazing that we can still find so many bots, much more than previous research.”

“Twitter deserved praise for its work on finding and eliminating bots”, Zhou added, but it was clear that skilled hackers had found ways to avoid official scrutiny and keep the bots ticking over.

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