Signing up on Twitter doesn’t even require the most basic human check: the CAPTCHA. Which is one of the many reasons why it is no wonder that a significant number of accounts around the microblogging site are bots.
Researchers at the University of Southern California revealed that about 9 to 15% of Twitter accounts are bots controlled by software instead of humans. That’s about 48 million accounts, with 319 million active users.
Regardless if they are bots, the software-controlled accounts enjoy the same privileges as liking, retweeting and following on Twitter. These can be used in any motivated propaganda.
But a Twitter spokesperson said that bots in the platform are not entirely bad in nature. “Many bot accounts are extremely beneficial, like those that automatically alert people of natural disasters … or from customer service points of view.”
The researchers agree. They saw that the bots “perform useful social functions such as dissemination of news and publications and coordination of volunteer activities”.
It is undeniable, however, that bot accounts were instrumental in the political arena especially in the last U.S. elections. A study by University of Southern California in November 2016 said that Twitter bot accounts produced 3.8 million tweets, or 19 percent of all election tweets for the study’s period between Sept. 16 and Oct. 21, 2016.