How to Detect a Twitter Bot

I enjoy spending my crazy and precious life arguing with strangers on reciprocal Twitter threads. But I want them to be real strangers, not bots, spammers, or fake identities. I don’t want to waste my excessive insults and smug dunks on a fake account. Since bots make up 15% of Twitter usersand a quarter of all the accounts that publish on Twitter information on climate denial – it will require some research.

You may have more compelling reasons for sniffing out bots: you might want to verify someone’s credentials before retweeting their advice or their latest news. You may be a developer fighting spam in your application. Maybe you just want to prove that ten followers of your shitty colleague are fakes. Anyway, try these ten Twitter bot identification tricks developed by Poynter researcher and co-author Henk van Ess.

The first step is to check when the account was started, which is displayed on the account profile page. While you’re there, take a look at the account subscribers. Then check out the first tweets of the account using Twitter’s advanced search as shown in this video tutorial:

Further, the tips get more complicated and include cross-referencing different social media accounts or performing data analysis. Depending on your goal, you can choose to detect not only bots, but any account that may not match the stated one.

Another tip from me: try to insult your account and see what happens. But remember, even a bot can block you.

This story was originally published in 2017 and was updated on 02/21/2020 with new information.


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