Twitter Cuts Bots Back with New Rules of Use
February 24, 2018
Bots can have their benefits for businesses and advertising purposes, but what they really are is annoying, or at least, that’s the message that Twitter got from users and government officials following the 2016 Presidential Election which was flooded by automated messages from Twitter bots.
Bots have been used for some time now as a means of spreading news and advertising, but they have been poorly managed in the past, with many spreading fake news or fraudulently representing nonexistent tweeters to push opinions.
Fake social media accounts, posts, and advertising methods are not new, and have become an industry unto itself, with billions of dollars coming from these endeavors each year. The goal of most social media users is to increase followers, especially those users with businesses, seeking greater levels of traffic online. In this way, users have been able to cheat by buying followers in the hundreds, even thousands, for a handsome sum.
The more followers a user has, the greater the pull for the rest of the population to pay attention to what this user has to say. The message being, “if all these people are following, there must be information worth getting here.” Of course, through of bots Twitter users don’t need to gain real followers to send this message, creating online personalities and a sense of subject authority seemingly overnight.
Twitter Takes A Stand
This method of buying followers and spreading fake news may have been acceptable, or at the very least, overlooked in the past but Twitter has made it clear that this type of behavior won’t fly anymore. The social media leader has cracked down on bots with several new rolls which roll out this year. Yoel Roth of Twitter posted the rules on Twitter’s blog recently, explaining that the changes are being made for the safety and privacy of users and for the integrity of the platform as a whole.
The first rule made by Twitter against the use of bots states that no user may use automated tweeting to spread spam or false news. The seriousness of this rule is supported by the report of action against those who break it.
Rule two prohibits identical posts from duplicate accounts, meaning that companies who operate several Twitter accounts, each with their own followers can’t post the same messages repetitively from each account. This rule will also affect reposting favorable tweets, as it could disrupt Twitter post statistics due to the high volume of reposts from bots. Retweeting will still be allowed but not in a way that seems forced or automated.
Users with multiple accounts for business purposes, such as three different plumbing company accounts for the three separate locations plumbing services are located will still be allowed, but automated rules still apply, and it is frowned upon for users with multiple accounts to like, follow, or comment from all accounts on one tweet or user in the hopes of making that user or post seem more popular. In other words, individuals should make their opinion known once. Each user counts for one like, repost, comment, or follow.
Automated posts are generally used to increase the use of specific hashtags and therefor increase possible followers, and traffic to other websites or causes. Twitter is trying to reduce the use of the platform for unlawful business gain in this way, but has made it clear that they are not trying to dissuade business owners from using the service. In fact, Twitter promotes the use of their platform of advertising and business use, and many of the new rules are created to protect business users as well as personal users of the platform.
Exceptions to the Rules
The only area where Twitter seems to be making exceptions to the automation or “spam” rule is in the event of an actual emergency. Public service announcements or weather warnings are held to different standards than general posts, because the messages they are sending can be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of Twitter users. Many of these posts are made by city or government officials, providing an air of authority which signify a non-spammer.
Reactions to the Changes
TweetDeck users were some of the first to feel the sting of the new rules, which have affected some accounts negatively already. It was hit hard this year when TweetDeck users were told they could no longer perform repeated actions on duplicate accounts. These users have voiced their distaste for the changes, suggesting that Twitter is going too far for a small problem. Some users with more than one account do use their accounts within the governing laws of Twitter, and these are the individuals voicing complaints about the new rule system.
Aside from these affected users, most others have regarded the changes as good, with primarily positive feedback. These changes will take some of the guesswork out of determining which Twitter users are the real deal. It is thought that somewhere around 50-million Twitter accounts are bots. This is problematic for the social media company, which is currently struggling to compete with giants like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, where false accounts is a much smaller issue. Facebook cracked down on these behaviors long ago, making it difficult to even change your username without proof, let alone create a false account.
There are false accounts and bots on every social media platform, but these new rules from Twitter may spark something of a tidal wave across the social media industry in terms of banning this type of behavior.