What are spambots and why they are a problem in Elon Musk’s Twitter deal

Tech Billion Fridayaire Elon Musk announced that he termination of the deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion. The reason, he said, was the ongoing disagreement over the number of spambot accounts on the platform. Now, the question of what constitutes a spambot account and how many currently exist on Twitter is likely to be at the center of legal battles between Mr. B. Musk and Twitter over a fraught deal.

While sometimes referred to as “bots”, “spam”, or “fake accounts”, they all refer to fake accounts that mimic the way people use Twitter. Some spam accounts are automated, but others are managed by humans, making them difficult to detect.

Bots can tweet to people, share tweets, follow and be followed by other people, among other things.

mr. Musk has been voicing concern about spambots on Twitter for years. In 2020, he appeared at a Twitter employee event and urged the company to do more to prevent and remove spambots.

FROM announces its intention to buy Twitter in April, Mr. Musk repeatedly tweeted about spambots on the platform. In May, when Parag Agrawal, CEO of Twitter, tweeted about how the company is detecting and combating spambots. Musk responded with a poop emoji.

AT six paragraph letter On June 6, Mr. Musk’s lawyers pressed Twitter for more information, saying the company was “denying Mr. Trump.” Musk is asking for data to “reveal the number of fake accounts on his platform. Lawyers continued that this amounted to a “clear material breach” of the deal, saying it gave Mr. Musk the right to terminate the agreement. The next day, Twitter agreed to allow Mr. Musk direct access to his “fire hose”, a daily stream of millions of tweets passing through the company’s network.

Since it went public in 2013, Twitter estimates that roughly 5% of its accounts are spambots. The company told reporters on Thursday that it deletes about a million spambot accounts daily and blocks millions more each week until the people behind those accounts pass spam tests.

However, the company does allow spam bot accounts, which it prefers to call automated bots that perform specific actions. Twitter encourages many of these accounts to call themselves bots for the sake of transparency. The company claims that many of these accounts serve a useful function.

Twitter defines good spambots as automated accounts that “help people find useful, interesting, and relevant information.” For example, @mrstockbot gives people automatic replies when they request a stock quote, and @earthquakebot tweets any earthquake of magnitude 5.0 or greater worldwide when it occurs.

But other spambots are being used by governments, corporations, or malicious actors for a range of nefarious purposes. During the 2016 US presidential election, Russia used spambot accounts to impersonate Americans and try to sow discord among American voters.

Scam spam bots are often found on Twitter trying to convince people to send cryptocurrency or digital currency to online wallets for prizes that don’t exist. Sometimes spam bots are also used to attack celebrities or politicians and create a hostile environment for them online.

Kate Conger contributed reporting.