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Twitter gets plea to “Ban Russian Bots”

(FinancialPress) — On Wednesday, Twitter employees were welcomed to their workplace by a strange, yet familiar message – projected onto the side of the building, the words “Ban Russian Bots“ shone in bright, white letters.

The company is struggling to explain how bots, which can be programmed to periodically send messages to their platform, may have been allowed to have influence over the 2016 US presidential election.

Sean Knox – @smk

“Ban Russian bots” projecting on Twitter HQ right now

Twitter made a conscious effort to maintain its platform bot-friendly, given how advertisers can use them to efficiently promote advertisements and respond to user complaints. The number of bots in the user base ranges between 9 and 15 percent, as per research from the University of Southern California and Indiana University.

While most bots limit themselves to promoting messages that contain headlines, the weather, company promos – as well as “quote bots“ – it is feared that the company’s voluntary decision to maintain the interface bot-friendly was misused. Sources, who requested to remain anonymous, disclosed that there was some talk of the issue right after the election. They discussed identifying automated users with a distinctive marking, for example. However, the topic lost traction shortly thereafter, mostly to the discussion of if President Trump’s tweets violated Twitter’s terms of service.

Even though the company’s efforts to paliate the issue are evident (they have gone as far as creating automated detection of suspicious logins, and blocking “bad content“ before it gets out to the public), they are still lagging far behind stalwarts Facebook and Google.

“As Twitter has grown and evolved in recent years, so has our ability to confront challenges like abuse and harassment. That is why we have invested significantly more resources to improving user trust and safety…In addition to establishing a Trust and Safety Council in 2016, we have substantially increased our global staff working on these issues and continue to update our products to foster a safer Twitter.”

-Excerpt of emailed statement.


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