Maybe 15% of your Twitter luv comes from bots.
“We classified nearly 14 (million) accounts using our system and inferred the optimal threshold scores that separate human and bot accounts for several models with different mixes of simple and sophisticated bots,” explained the researchers. “Our estimates for the bot population range between 9% and 15%.”
This is not necessarily a bad thing. Web Robots – or bots – are pieces of software which run automated tasks over the internet. Some are very useful and increase productivity because they can perform tasks much more quickly than can humans. Some are malicious.
“(The study)results emphasize that Twitter hosts a variety of users with diverse behaviors; this is true for both human and bot accounts,” wrote the USC and IU researchers. “In some cases, the boundary separating these two groups is not sharp and an account can exhibit characteristics of both.
“There is a growing record of malicious applications of social bots. Some emulate human behavior to manufacture fake grassroots political support, promote terrorist propaganda and recruitment and disseminate rumors and conspiracy theories.”
The research was conducted by the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research, Indiana University, Bloomington, and the Information Sciences Institute, University of Southern California, Marina del Rey, California.
The study draws upon a base established by Twitter itself in a 2014 report filed with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. In that report, Twitter suggested “up to” 8.5 percent of its 271 million accounts considered “monthly active users” (or MAUs), could be accounts automatically generated without any additional – as Twitter so cutely put it – “user-initiated action.” In other words,Twitter bots.
In its report for 2016, the web security and research firm, Imperva, suggested humans produced 48.2 percent of all internet traffic while bots – good and bad – account for 51.8 percent of all internet traffic. Of that majority bot traffic, said the Imperva report, 28.9 percent is generated by bad bots while 22.9 percent is generated by good bots.
“In 2016 we tracked 504 unique good bots—278 of which were active enough to generate at least 1,000 daily visits to our network,” explains the report. “Of these, 57.2 percent displayed an increase in activity, while only 29.4 percent saw their activity decrease year-over-year.”
The bad bot traffic, says Imperva, has remained constant around the 30 percent mark over the past five years.
And the bad bots tend to go after websites will very little overall activity.
“For instance, on the least trafficked domains—those frequented by ten human visitors a day or less—bad bots accounted for 47.7 percent of visits while total bot traffic amounted to 93.3 percent,” says the Imperva report. “Simply put, good bots will crawl your website and bad bots will try to hack it regardless of how popular it is with the human folk. They will even keep visiting a domain in absence of all human traffic.”‘
Imperva said “the most alarming statistic” in its report is also the most persistent trend it observed:: “for the past five years every third visitor website visitor was an attack bot.”
“The implications of this trend are felt by many digital business owners, the majority of whom are facing non-human attackers on a regular basis,” said Imperva. “Specifically, out of 100,000 domains in this survey, 94.2 percent experienced at least one bot attack over the 90 day period.”