Twitter set to crack down on spam bots

10:00, 22 February 2018
World
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REUTERS

Automated accounts and automated tweeting are allowed on Twitter generally -- they're how companies keep their feeds going at night and on weekends, for instance. But not all such automated accounts, often known as "bots," are used for good. It's those that Twitter appears to be going after.

In a blog post published Wednesday, Twitter's trust and safety manager Yoel Roth said the company has made changes to Twitter and TweetDeck to limit coordinated posts across multiple accounts. Roth said users will not be allowed to post identical or substantially similar content across multiple accounts at once, nor will they be allowed to "like" or "retweet" or follow other users from multiple accounts at once, according to CNN.

The changes appear aimed at preventing users from creating or controlling accounts in an organized fashion to achieve a particular goal, such as making a particular point of view appear to have more support than it actually does.

Filippo Menczer, an informatics and computer science professor at Indiana University, says that's been a persistent vulnerability for Twitter.

The announcement comes amid heightened attention to bots on Twitter.

The changes Twitter announced Wednesday may have played a role in a controversy on the platform earlier in the day. A number of conservative and far-right users of the site said they had lost up to thousands of followers on Tuesday evening. Some of those users blamed Twitter for what they called a "lockout" on conservative accounts, claiming censorship of far-right views. Soon after, the hashtag #TwitterLockOut was trending on the platform.

Read alsoEx Russian "troll" speaks out on U.S. elex meddlingAsked about the claims, a Twitter spokesperson told CNN in a statement that the company "regularly" looks for "suspicious account behaviors" in order to proactively crackdown on "spammy behavior."

"We focus on suspicious account behaviors that indicate inorganic, automated activity, or abusive behavior," the statement said. "We also take proactive action on accounts that we believe to be violation of the Twitter Rules, including requesting additional details like asking account owners to confirm a phone number."

Menczer said that the action seems to be part of Twitter's attempt to purge fake accounts.

Read alsoThirteen Russians criminally charged for interfering in U.S. election – media"If I control a whole bunch of accounts, forcing me to confirm with the phone can create a significant challenge because sometimes these accounts are created with throwaway numbers," he said. "If you no longer can confirm your account, this is a way to take down a lot of fake accounts."

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