I like to spend my one wild and precious life arguing with strangers in Twitter reply threads. But I want them to be real strangers, not bots, spammers or fake identities. I don’t want to waste any of my overwrought insults and smug dunks on a fake account. And since bots make up 15 per cent of Twitter users, that can take some research.
Give it a calfskin wallet. (Image from Blade Runner)
You might have better reasons for sniffing out bots: Maybe you want to check someone’s credentials before you retweet their advice or their breaking news. Maybe you’re a developer fighting spam on your app. Maybe you just want to prove that your shitty co-worker’s 10 followers are all fake. In any case, try out these 10 tricks for identifying Twitter bots, by researcher and Poynter contributor Henk van Ess.
The first step is to check when an account started, which is displayed on the account’s profile page. While you’re there, look at the account’s followers. Next, check out the account’s first tweets using Twitter’s advanced search, as shown in this video guide:
From there, the tips get more complicated, and involve cross-referencing different social media accounts, or running some data analysis. Depending on your goal, you can pick and choose, to spot not just bots, but any account that might not be what it claims to be.
One extra tip from me: Try insulting the account, and see what happens. But remember, even a bot can block you.