Twitter to highlight bot accounts

Posted on September 14, 2021


Social media giant Twitter has now launched testing for a new feature that would make it clearer to users whether an account is a bot.

Bot accounts are those run by Twitter’s Developer API – in simple terms, a real person isn’t posting from the account. To make it easier for its users to identify these accounts, Twitter has begun testing out new labels, which will be displayed both on a bot account’s profile and on their tweets in a user’s feed.

The profile label will see an icon of a bot appear underneath the account’s handle, along with an ‘Automated by’ label, which will be followed by the handle of the person who manages the account. Within a user’s feed, that same bot icon will appear, along with a simple ‘Automated’ label.

These new labels will help to make it clear how content is being shared on Twitter, along with who – or what – is doing the posting. This can then make the motivations behind certain accounts clearer, and avoid confusion.

Back in March, Twitter itself said that:

“Not all bots are bad. In fact, high-quality bots can enhance everyone’s experience on Twitter.”

However, while not all bots are bad, some have been deployed in the past for more dubious means. For example, Social Media Today reports that back in 2016, following the US Election that year, vast networks of bots were uncovered – some being made up of more than 500,000 accounts – that were aimed at influencing political discussion. In addition, back in 2019, it was found that 60% of tweets concerning some trending events were the result of bots, and early on last year, it was uncovered that a bot network was spreading incorrect information about the bushfire crisis in Australia, with the aim of intensifying conspiracy theories that attacked climate change.

While some users may believe that spotting a bot account would be easy, this isn’t always the case. Often, these tweets blend in with the rest of a user’s feed, and the only real tell that it’s a post from a bot account is that the exact same tweet has been shared by multiple accounts at the same time. Unless a user follows all of these accounts, which is highly unlikely, they wouldn’t be able to tell that it was a bot message, and this mass posting can swiftly turn such a message into a trending topic, potentially spreading misinformation.

The new feature from Twitter will help to create more transparency on the site. Currently, these labels are only visible on a select number of bot accounts that opted in to the testing, but wider access is in the works.

Transparency is key on the web for businesses to maintain a reputable online presence. If you need help getting your business’ name out in the online world, give our team at Engage Web a call today.

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