Elon Musk vs. Twitter Bots: How Big Is the Problem?
5:39

Elon Musk vs. Twitter Bots: How Big Is the Problem?

Tech
Speaker 1: Elon Musk says he's putting his 44 billion deal to buy Twitter on hold until the company can back its estimate of how many bots are on the platform. So why is Musk so concerned about bots? Speaker 2: Twitter Speaker 1: Has said that less than 5% of its daily users are false or spam accounts, but Musk who struck a deal to buy the social media site on April 25th is skeptical tweeting. Three weeks later, my offer [00:00:30] was based on Twitter's S E C filings being accurate Musk also said Twitter CEO, Prague AAL refused to show proof that fake and spam accounts make up less than 5% of users adding this deal cannot move forward until he does. But under the agreed terms, if either Musk or Twitter walks away, they have to pay the other party. $1 billion in termination fees bot are automated computer programs that sometimes pose as real people and they [00:01:00] exist on a variety of social media platforms on Twitter. Those fake accounts will often tweet like or retweet posts. Twitter has spent years trying to combat bots after being criticized for not doing enough to curb harassment and manipulation on its platform. In 2016, the us government and law enforcement agencies investigated Russia's use of bots to spread misinformation on Twitter during the us presidential election in 2018, a pew research study found that an estimated [00:01:30] two thirds of tweeted links to popular sites are shared by automated accounts. Speaker 1: Musk has reason to be apprehensive about scam bots in 2021 accounts impersonating the Tesla CEO, swindled people out of 2 million in cryptocurrency within just six months. According to the us federal trade commission, the scammers were capitalizing on the buzz around crypto and alert people into fake investment opportunities in January must complain that Twitter was spending time [00:02:00] on updates like profile pictures with NFTs instead of fighting crypto spam bots in April, he tweeted that bots are the single most annoying problem on Twitter. And then said, if our Twitter bid succeeds, we will defeat the spam bots or die. Trying in may Musk suggested 20% of Twitter accounts could be fake or spam adding. It could be much higher experts agree. The actual number of Twitter bots is hard to ascertain. Speaker 3: We don't actually know because no one has [00:02:30] actually run a bot detector on every single account on Twitter, but they could be. Speaker 1: It's important to know. Not all bots are bad Speaker 3: GitHub where a lot of people store data and algorithms. There's a lot of bots on there that simply tell you that some piece of software has been updated. So they're all over the place. And you know, and this is something that's becoming more and more and more common because as we learn more and more things that we can build algorithms to do for us, so that [00:03:00] you'll see more and more bots, you know, that do things. I mean, in some sense, a spell checker is a bot, Speaker 1: Right? But still there can be a danger to bots trying to sway people, especially around critical issues like COVID 19 or politics in 2020 Carly and her research team found that nearly half of the Twitter accounts that we're discussing reopening America during the pandemic may have been bots. Speaker 3: In many cases like around critical issues like elections or around the Warren Ukraine or around terror events. [00:03:30] And in, in France, you will often see bots being used to try to get people to behave, react, and think a certain thing. Speaker 1: Carly says it's getting harder to tell which accounts are bots because some are getting much more sophisticated. But one thing to look out for are accounts that send out a lot of tweets or messages within a short timeframe. She also says people can use publicly available bot tools to figure out if an account is legitimate in 2018, in an effort to thwart spam [00:04:00] bots, Twitter began requiring new users to confirm either an email address or phone number when signing up for an account. And last year, Twitter rolled out a feature that labels good bots that send automated tweets. The company also said late last year that it's cracking down on spam bots with help from machine learning and a forensic team of human investigators. Speaker 3: They would have to do a lot of things in order to do that. That might be very costly for them to do, um, such as, uh, building better machine [00:04:30] learning algorithms in more languages because you know, not all, not all bots speak English Speaker 1: Bots on Twitter can pose a real threat, but Carly suspects there's another reason Musk is making a big deal about them. Speaker 3: I suspect he just wants a lower price. I don't know why you would even offer for Twitter without knowing that there were a lot of bots Speaker 1: On it. As of mid-May, the deal seemed pretty shaky. One analyst suggested there's less than a 50% chance Musks deal with Twitter would succeed. Musk has engaged [00:05:00] in some heated conversations on Twitter with leaders like agro wall about the presence of spam and how to tackle it. One of Musk's ideas for handling the problem is to authenticate all human users on the platform. While some of these debates and discussions have been very public. There may also be internal conversations that could steer this deal in any direction. Speaker 3: I do not believe that the number of bots on Twitter is why the deal would not go through, but it might be what's portrayed is why it didn't [00:05:30] go Speaker 1: Through one thing's for sure. Musk will tweet about it.

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