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Twitter says as many as 23 million accounts connect with automated services

Almost 9 percent of active accounts use automated technology to interact with Twitter, a new SEC filing reveals.

James Martin/CNET

UPDATED 1:13pm PT Corrects misinterpretation of the quarterly filing and what the implications of it are. Twitter did not discuss "bots" in its filing. Some automated accounts post a Tweet when a door is opened, while others are used by news organizations to publish their latest headlines.

It turns out a chunk of active Twitter users aren't active participants.

In a new filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, the social networking service revealed that in the three months ended June 30, around 8.5 percent of its active accounts used third-party apps that automatically connect to Twitter for them, updating their streams without any effort. It's unclear whether these services are used to automatically post to Twitter, or merely to read information from the network. Either way, this means among the 271 million active Twitter accounts in total, around 23 million aren't putting much effort in.

So why is Twitter revealing this information? For the purpose of its SEC filing, the company is attempting to clarify how people use the service. This information can help investors better understand the growth rate of its active users, and how they use the service. Wall Street has closely watched user growth and activity among active users since the company went public last year.

In an attempt to express more precise measurements to the government and stockholders, Twitter's latest filing explained that around 11 percent of its accounts used third-party apps to tap into the service, meaning they didn't go directly through the website or one of the company's own products. But the 8.5 percent listed in the document do use third party technologies, such as HTC's Sense and Samsung's Touchwiz, giving them an ability to automatically pull information from Twitter with -- or without -- opening an app.

"Historically we tracked and reported in this section all users who accessed Twitter through third-party applications," Twitter said in its SEC filing. "We have reviewed and refined our processes, however, to calculate a new metric that is comprised of only such active users who have used applications with the capability to automatically contact our servers for regular updates where there was no discernible user action involved."

(Via Quartz)