As the user count of major social media platforms has grown, so has the number of fake accounts and bots that exist to create discord online. Multiple instances of fake users and internet bots created to incite violence, promote extremist opinions, and create chaos have been identified recently, especially around election time in countries across the globe. Malicious users and organizations can create bots to mindlessly post propaganda and harmful opinions, and can also be used by powerful agencies to create chaos in different areas of the world. It is important as a social media user to understand what to look for when identifying these fake accounts, so we put together a list of three things to look out for if you think you’re dealing with a bot instead of a real person. Keep in mind, this list should help you know what to look for, but it does not guarantee that you are dealing with a bot.
- Look at the age of the account compared to the number of interactions
Many bot accounts will be relatively young, so consider the amount of comments or posts they have created in the amount of time the account has been active. Accounts run by bots are able to search for specific keywords and post replies very quickly, much quicker than a human ever could. If an account that has only been active for a few days has hundreds of comments, posts, tweets, etc., you may be dealing with a bot.
- If possible, look at the comment/post history of the account
Depending on the platform you are on, you may be able to check the comment history, tweet history, or replies from a single account. If you dig into the content of each post and notice a trend, specifically one that would be considered controversial or inciteful, this is a common sign that the account is run by a bot.
- Look at the responses to the posts and comments from the account
This varies by what platform you are using, but observing how normal users respond to the activity of the account in question is a great way to see if you’re dealing with a bot. On Reddit, post and comment karma is publicly available information on the user profile. If you notice an account has an overwhelmingly negative score, plus they have a trend of where they post and what they post about, this is a good sign you’re dealing with a bot.
Understanding bot behavior and knowing what to look for is becoming increasingly important, especially given the political and social climate we currently live and participate in. If you do think you have found a bot account, explore the options you have to report the account. As bots become better at mimicking human behavior, it is even more important to know what to look for when participating in any social media service.