The Bullsh**ters & the SocialBots (Vol. IV) Verified &Tweeting a Good Game

“Ignorance of the law excuses no man: Not that all men know the law, but because ’tis an excuse every man will plead, and no man can tell how to refute him.”- John Selden (English antiquarian & jurist (1584–1654))

Muhammad Ali talked (a lot), but he also took care of business. Imagine how many re-tweets and likes “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” would have earned.

There’s no shortage of Ali like people genuinely engaged on Twitter today. It’s also not difficult finding profiles where the actions don’t come close to equaling the claims. Equating a high volume tweeting machine that’s essentially an automated CyborgBot, as someone who genuinely cares about what they shares is difficult to fathom. There’s nothing human or genuine about handing a social profile over to a machine.

In this case, the in-human volume of tweets didn’t grab our attention. Seeing most of the re-tweets and likes are being generated by SocialBots is when we take notice. By extension this behavior is contributing to the overall ecosystem of fake, and therefore warrants a place on the Bullsh**ters list.

David Papp is in this weeks spotlight particularly because there’s a blue check-mark next to his name as well.

We’ve documented an established pattern of anti-social tendencies. For instance, these first two tweets fake profiles generated the 14 combined re-tweets and 10 of the respective 12 likes. We also appreciate there’s a touch of irony to these because, we believe there is a distinct potential cyber-threat connected to the SocialBots manipulating and inflating these social metrics.

These next two tweets have zero human engagement.

Running a scan and mapping 50 re-tweets renders a visual snapshot of SocialBot handiwork (all 50 are verified Bots). To believe this is organic and freely occurring social behavior is like expecting it’s Santa who ate those cookies left on the hearth.

Besides using non-human engagement to amplify the messages and inflate social metrics, there are other issues connected to this problem such as:

Making it easier for fake profiles extend their reach to social platforms. We see many of these profiles with Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and LinkedIn “credentials.”
Social profiles automation makes it easier for operations with ill-intentions to exploit via auto-follow back; auto-thanks for the following or adding to a list or liking… it’s like rolling out the red carpet for SocialBots to infect your social presence.

These SocialBots are like content mercenaries, doing anything to drive clicks for cash, compromise the unwitting, and further propagate misinformation. The security risk they present is real, as is the risk to reputations. This small collection of tweets is representative of how these SocialBots surface their feeds with legitimate content, paid content, and anything topical to grab a moment of attention.

Pointing fingers at others who are managing a social profile is a hollow protest. Abdicating personal responsibility or wrapping oneself in a shroud of plausible deniability is indefensible. In this specific case, David Papp’s approach to using Twitter is also diminishing the value of a verified profile.

It’s troubling how this behavior has become a symptom of a bigger societal ill. These questionable actions of one, becomes a pattern of the many and is ultimately contributing to the erosion of trust.

Pew Research Center recently published, The Fate of Online Trust in the Next Decade suggestingthe emergence of trust-jarring digital interactions has also coincided with a sharp decline in trust for major institutions, such as government(and Congress and the presidency), the news media, public schools, the church and banks.”

The ecosystem of fake is a global, complex, and extensive problem that currently defies any single technological solution. Yet, as they’re uncovered the participants can be exposed. If we want less fake, it’s ultimately an individual choice to become more real.

“In a good hell people are aware they are living in hell and so they want to transform it, but after living a long time in a fake paradise, people become accustom to it, and they actually believe that they are already in paradise.” — Chan Koonchung (The Fat Years)


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