Twitter reports 23 million users are actually ‘bots’

BY Charles Pulliam-Moore  August 12, 2014 at 4:53 PM EST
Twitter

About 8.5 percent of Twitter’s monthly active users are bots. Image courtesy of Twitter.

Twitter has disclosed the number of its users that are actually human as opposed to account-holding, automated programs in its most recent quarterly filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission. According to the report, about 23 million — or 8.5 percent of Twitter’s monthly active users — hold accounts that are programmatically updated “without any discernible additional user-initiated action.”

Often referred to as Twitterbots, or simply “bots,” the programs are used for an array of different purposes ranging from the creation of revenue-generating URLs to the acquirement of instant followers for those willing to buy them. While traditionally thought of as being the source of Twitter’s significant spam problem, Twitterbots can also be used to a number of creative ends.

Rob Dubbin, a writer for “The Colbert Report,” is the developer behind Olivia Taters and Real Human Praise, two Twitterbots designed to mimic the kinds of tweets typically sent out by teenagers, and conservative news organizations, respectively. @OliviaTaters has amassed over 3,400 followers, many of whom are teen Twitter users who recognize and respond to the bot’s non-sequitorial stream of consciousness.

The inherent simplicity of a Twitterbot’s programming often makes for inadvertently clever accounts. But the ease with which the bots can be created could be a problem for the social network.

The market’s confidence in Twitter is linked primarily to its viability as an advertising platform.

Since its initial public offering in November of 2013, Twitter’s market value has fluctuated drastically. After opening at $26 per share at IPO, Twitter stock hit an all-time high of $74.73 a month later before steadily losing about half of its market value. In late July, following a reported 24 percent jump in its number of active users, Twitter saw a massive surge in the valuation of its stock, bringing the company’s worth to $27.3 billion.