Amplification bots used to raise the popularity and legitimacy of Twitter posts
Earlier this year we looked at Duo Security's research into Twitter bots which focused on fake followers. The company has now published some further research looking at amplification bots.
So what is an amplification bot? They exist to boost content through likes and retweets. Duo has produced an algorithm to identify these bots and was able to find more than 7,000 over a 24 hour period.
"These bots exist to spread content and disseminate it to more people, and to raise the credibility or the popularity of that content by spiking retweet numbers," Jordan Wright, principal R&D engineer at Duo says. "This is more damaging than the fake follower type of bots because those exist only to promote popularity, whereas these bots are actively spreading information. They are trying to trick users into believing that information is more credible than it actually is."
To identify the bots researchers examined measures like the ratio of retweets to likes, and at the amount of original content versus the number of retweets.
"We looked for accounts that had very skewed retweet to like ratios," says data scientist Olabode Anise. "When a tweet has more than 50 retweets it will usually have more likes than retweets. Amplification bots tend to have around 3.5 retweets to likes, they also tend to have more retweets than original content. We selected a threshold of more than 90 percent retweets and a more than five to one ratio of retweets to likes as being likely indicators of a bot. We also looked at the timeline, most bots are retweeting content from weeks if not months ago."
Amplification seems to be applied across a range of accounts, tweets being boosted include those for cryptocurrency, general influencing behavior and more. The overall goal seems to be to make the accounts seem more credible. "The bots have ties to security issues as well," adds Wright. "Making a tweet that has a link in it to malicious content look more popular and legitimate could be really dangerous."
You can find out more about the research on the Duo website.