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More machine than man: Twitter’s bot problem goes all the way to the White House

Twitter is currently infested with bots, but no-one is quite sure why. Typically, Donald Trump is front-and-centre to this problem, but local leaders and journalists alike are subject to the same problem. I’m looking at you, Malcolm.



We’ve long had a problem with robots taking over our neighbourhood. What with them taking our jobs and all. However, perhaps we should re-examine our focus from Skynet to Botnet, or put more precisely, the method in which bot traffic is shaping the conversation over on Twitter. Now, in ordinary times, who cares, but consider the modern landscape we walk in, one that is controlled by Sheriff Trump of the World Police who solely operates in one hundred and forty characters or less. Yeah. As reported earlier in the year, the rapid bot increase of Donald’s Twitter following is vexing; but not because of the faceless electronic horde suddenly wanting to build that firewall with Mexican circuits, but rather in Twitter’s loose control of the issue.



A Daily Beast reporter was recently kicked off Twitter after a wave of bots made themselves comfortable. Despite the fact that the Spartan collective only numbered 300, it was enough for the countermeasures to suspend his account. Joseph Cox, who penned the piece, noticed an uptick in these hollow interlopers after he carved an op-ed asking questions about Russia’s pro-Kremlin bots on Twitter.

What introduces the looking glass to this particular situation is what happened next. Not only was the wave swift, but the same bots that followed him followed his colleagues, in the same order, no less. Whoa.

Hours later, Twitter reinstated Cox’s account, blaming an error, but failing to comment if the bot spike lead to his momentary suspension. So it seems to the naked eye that the world’s most pre-eminent place to swear at people is suffering from the bubonic bot flu. As for the reasoning behind it, other than meeting the scantily clad exotic spouse you didn’t know you needed, the matter is up for debate. Some claim that the bot-build up is in preparation for the Trump administration’s war with its critics (you know, instead of making fewer mistakes), with Uncle Vlad apparently holding the strings.

Maybe, but that’s a bit paranoid, innit? Malcolm Nance, a retired US Navy cryptologist believes this:



But again, he might be a bot, so maybe I don’t believe him. I want evidence of your existence, Malcolm.

So, what’s the solution? I don’t know. Maybe that’s it. Paranoia. It might be our greatest weapon. The equivalent of those Terminator detecting dogs, where we suspect every verbal arm wrestle might with someone who is titanium alloy under the skin. If we’re venturing on that route, a website exists that actually measures how many fake followers an account has.

Just say you were curious how many of Pauline Hanson’s followers were actually legit, you can just blithely punch in the username, and a percentage is returned. Spoiler alert:


Source: twitteraudit.com


In the interest of fairness, it seems that the leaders of both majority parties are victims of this phenomenon, with our Prime Minister barely more machine than man. Not that Bill fared much better, but still:



So, do we now step to Plan B, and send someone back in time in an effort to stop the creation of the first Tweetbot?

Why not. It’s worked before.


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