In the past two weeks we have learned from two experts that Twitter is not what it claims to be. Peiter Zatko, who just happens to be an old colleague of mine, no, not from the Agency but from BBN where I was a Vice President after my retirement, tells us Twitter has many more bots and lots of security issues they didn’t share in their public filings. Now, Dan Woods, a former CIA Cyber Operations Officer who runs a team devoted to detecting and following bot activity on the Internet, tells us Twitter may be as much as 80% bot activity. ShaaaaZam!!! 80%? Question: How do you sell product to bots? Answer: You Don’t.
According to Woods you can buy followers on Twitter and since the number of followers supposedly determines the level of influence a Twitter user has it may be that lots of the more influential posters on Twitter aren’t that popular at all. Rather they have created or purchased thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of bot followers.
What does this mean? Well, first, if true, then Elon Musk should not have to pay tons of billions of dollars for a hollow bot filled hole of a company. He could never expect a return on his investment if the majority of the activity is bot generated. Second, the Twitterverse just became a lot smaller and those who have quoted Twitter postings as news worthy events may want to reconsider where they get their opinion. This is especially important when we look at the latest societal fads like Wokism, Canceling, and most importantly what the public supposedly thinks of what’s happening in the world of politics. Cable news broadcasters use Twitter daily to gauge the response to statements, actions and other things happening in the world. Those broadcasters with agendas of their own (like pretty much all of them) use Twitter to reinforce the slant they give to their “reporting.” But if 80% of Twitter is just reaffirmation posts from bots enslaved to the original poster then they’ve been consistently fooled by just a few posters, some of whom might be foreign and hostile entities.
As I have noted in numerous essays, anonymous sources or sources that cannot be corroborated or otherwise verified, should be discounted. But in a world of twenty second sound bites and 140 character postings, it is difficult to stop and consider. You simply absorb and move on, accepting that what you read or heard is correct for, if it wasn’t, someone else would have taken the speaker, author to task. But you are wrong, for all the someone else’s are just like you, living in a world of competing ideas, overflowing with ad hominem attacks and too much information to do more with than just store it away.
So, if Mudge and Dan are correct, and I have no reason not to believe them, Twitter is essentially a vehicle for covert influence operations by those tho know how to manipulate its software. The next time a news reader talks about the Twitterverse exploding with this or that, remember what our two experts discovered.
As I have said before, think for yourself. Don’t believe what you see on Twitter just because the poster allegedly has hundreds of thousands of followers. On Twitter what you see isn’t necessarily what you get.
BTW, I am not a Bot but the voice on Spotify I’m going to use is.
This essay leads me to consider that perhaps the “NFL cheerleader” that used to follow my Twitter account was not a real person but was in fact a bot account. I am sorely disappointed.
Thanks for explaining this. I have never been on twitter but now I feel better about knowing that it is not as many real people as proclaimed.
Bottling is a very interesting way to falsify public opinion. Those who tally their number of followers may be upset with your disclosure.