How to Spot a Bot
If you use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram at all, you have undoubtedly encountered a bot and probably have been its unwitting tool. Read on for some tips on how to tell a bot from a real person, how to recognize the bait they put out, and how to avoid becoming part of a misinformation campaign...
Are You Part of the Fake News Problem?
Whether you believe the Russians interfered in U. S. elections or not, there is no denying the existence of malicious social media “bots,” legions of phony accounts controlled by shadowy central authorities whose purposes are to sow confusion, misinformation, and discord.
“Social-media users need to be aware of their role in information laundering. If a user retweets, emails, or posts information taken from a less-than-credible point of origin, they now have become the new ‘source’ of that information for friends, family, [and] followers,” Bret Schafer, an analyst at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, recently told Mother Jones. “This is how false information really spreads.”
The controllers of botnets are experts at pushing people’s hot buttons, getting them to share whatever is put in front of them without pausing to think critically, or even read more than a headline. They also know how to weasel their bots into your inner circles, your lists of friends and other trusted persons. It’s your job to resist the bait and stay clear of bots.
Sociologists, statisticians, and other data-crunchers have developed complex metrics that gauge the probability that a social media account is not a real person but a bot. The math and science are hard, but here are some simplified rules that can help you avoid becoming a bot’s best friend: a gullible accomplice in spreading disinformation.
First, don’t befriend everything that sends you a friend request, even though you like to think of yourself as a “friendly” person. Likewise, resist the Twitter ethos of tit-for-tat following; you don’t have to follow an account just because it follows you. Take a moment to examine the account that is asking to get on a more intimate footing with you and ask, “Why?”
Often it pays to simply ask, “To what do I owe the honor of your friend request/following?” If the answer makes sense, it may be from a human being. But if it’s an unresponsive non sequitur like, “Let’s be friends” then there’s a good chance it’s not. Ask another question; if the answer seems “off,” then pass.
Fast, Furious and Phony
Hyperactivity is another sign of a bot. Few people have 50 or 60 Tweets or posts per day. But bots are programmed to be active to attract attention.
Profile pictures that look too good (or too crude) to be true are another sign of a bot. If a photo looks suspicious, run it through Google’s reverse image search. https://reverse.photos/ If you get multiple identical hits, it’s more likely it represents a bot.
More than one shortened URL in a Tweet or post should set off alarms. Most people don’t have time to shorten lots of URLs, but botmasters use them to track traffic.
If you see an account that has posted in multiple languages, it’s probably a bot for hire by a variety of clients who speak those languages or target the people who do.
No human being befriends hundreds of other human beings in a month. No months-old Twitter user has thousands of followers. Members of the same botnet befriend and follow each other automatically to fake “popularity,” which some people still equate with credibility.
Perhaps you've met people who will pass along outlandish news stories that can be debunked with 10 seconds of research. When I do, I sometimes message them privately, and ask them nicely to please try and verify before "sharing" such stories. But more often than not, I get silence (or a nasty reply) instead of an apology. You should expect the same.
I do hope you become adept at spotting bots, and at resisting the urge to share emotion-laden posts or tweets without verifying their accuracy and “truthiness,” as Stephen Colbert calls the unwarranted feeling that something must be true just because it agrees with you.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below.
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 7 Aug 2018
|For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.|
Is Titan the KEY to Your Security?
The Top Twenty
Geekly Update - 08 August 2018
Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions
Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter
Copyright © 2005
- Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Article information: AskBobRankin -- How to Spot a Bot (Posted: 7 Aug 2018)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved