Around 8.5 percent of Twitter's active users are automated, the microblogging company revealed in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company is revealing this information, according to CNET, "to clarify who on Twitter is and isn't real and how people are accessing the site." It is an attempt to display growth, which shareholders recently have seen as sluggish.
In other words, of Twitter's 271 million active users, 23 million of those users "may have automatically contacted our servers for regular updates without any discernible additional user-initiated action," the report states.
These automated accounts could very well be a news service putting up automated updates. It could also be any number of automated Twitter bots that have proliferated the Twitter-sphere -- used for comedy, performance art, programming amusement and, unfortunately, spam.
Tumblr user Matthew Plummer-Fernandez created Botology, a Tumblr, which is self-described as "the study of social bots." He describes social bots:
"Social Bots are software applications that run automated interactions over online social networking sites. They can be found on twitter, facebook and tumblr. Originally viewed as simply spam or false identities, they are now a medium for artists and programmers to explore the digital social landscape in new ways by making artificial entities with unique social behaviours. "
Plummer-Fernandez also details the different types of social bots here.
In a unique social space, where you communicate through 140 characters, links, hashtags and avatars bots can be an interesting way to interact with an algorithm or an identity thieving nightmare. Out of the 23 million automated accounts, here are bots worth following:
Tofu product gained a swarm of press coverage when the bot debuted last fall (including a writeup on NewYorker.com.) This bot, which promptly replies when you tweet at it, is aptly named: Like tofu, the bot sucks in your particular flavor of speech, and tweets it back at you. For example:
OliviaTaters is probably one of the most hilarious and oddly prescient presences on Twitter. This teenage girl bot is the accidental creation of Rob Dubbin. Rob was playing with the overuse of the word "actually" when he created a bot that sounded a lot like a teen. Dubbin took it from there and @oliviataters was born. He explains to "On the Media's" TLDR. Here the bot responds to the death of Robin Williams:
This bot strings together sentences from Slavoj Zizek works and sources. The bot is sporadic, but the tweets are gems.
Bot Marley brings the lyrics of Bob Marley to Twitter, sending lyrics to users who ask for a song.
YourMomBot, as you may expect, replies to you and adds "your mom" to the front of your text.
Pretty self-explanatory -- you tweet "Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice" @Betelgeuse_3 will respond with "IT'S SHOWTIME!" It's a spooky sort of bot.
The description of this bot is "an experiment in speculative surveillance." The bot is a parody account of the NSA's PRISM program. Botology explains: "This bot does multiple things such as flagging tweets that contain words like ‘bomb’. It also spies on people logging on to various web apps and doing searches, tweeting their name and location. It also snoops on private emails and Google docs."
MarksFakeFacts takes bits from Wikipedia to tweet authentic sounding -- though completely incorrect -- fake facts.
This bot brilliantly combines Kanye West tweets with "30 Rock's" Tracy Jordan. How? It takes the simple phrase "Liz Lemon" and follows that with Kanye lyrics. The result is as perfect as night cheese.