Bots are everywhere, and unfortunately, many of them are malicious. Even the President of the United States isn’t immune from the difficult reality of bots. And that reality? They can be challenging to recognize.
Recently, President Trump retweeted the kind words of a supporter to his more than 35 million followers. While this seemed like a genuine attempt to recognize one of his loyal followers, it was quickly discovered that the user wasn’t authentic.Whoops!
Spotting a bot can be a difficult task – even for the president – but luckily with a trained eye, there are a few obvious signs.
- The user that never sleeps
If you have the sneaking suspicion that an account is run by a bot, one of the easiest ways to tell is to check the timestamps of their activity. If there is no break in activity – especially during the hours that a human would usually sleep – this is a sure-fire sign that the account is automated.
- The eye of a retweet storm
One popular type of bot is the “retweet bot.” This type of bot commonly centers around a catalyst account and automatically retweets content that contains pre-designated keywords. Alone, a retweet bot isn’t very effective, but if you have hundreds and even thousands working toward a common goal, they can significantly amplify and normalize information.
- Reply all
A reply bot is very similar to a retweet bot. A reply bot monitors tweets from accounts that contain particular text, hashtags, or links, and automatically responds to them. For example, during the recent French election, there were numerous cases of reply bots responding to tweets mentioning candidates with images containing disinformation and unflattering photos.
- Hijacked content and images
It’s common for bots to steal popular content and reuse it for their own benefit. The kicker is that they often replace any links with ones that redirect to their own site. These types of bots don’t usually attract a lot of followers (other than other bots) so their account of often quickly suspended.