The “Bot”-tom Line on Bots

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Frank Vereline, Staff Writer

Over the past ten years, the use of social media in everyday life has skyrocketed to an unprecedented size. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are used by millions of people everyday, but if you go back fifteen years, the presence of social media is almost non- existent. Although they may not always be used to promote good and positive habits to society, they have allowed people to connect with one another across the world. Due to the open nature of social media, people from all over can access its ever changing landscape, but because of the insane influx of people each day, bot accounts can easily slip through the cracks. For those of you who have never heard of or seen a bot account, let me give a small crash course on this scummy trend.

Due to the massive presence of social media, it’s hard to find somebody who isn’t using Facebook or Twitter, or other sites that allow the viewing and sharing of your personal ideas or information. With such a  high volume of users each day, we see people post pictures of themselves doing almost anything and everything. Bot accounts, which are simply low power computer programs, see these posts and proceed to flood the user with stories related to that topic. For example, if I were to post a picture of me riding my longboard, my feed would be filled with other people on longboards, or even ads to buy more. This may seem like a minor inconvenience to most people, but the accounts can be used to do much more than just pester.

Although most bot accounts are fairly easy to spot, there are some that seem to blend right in. Under regular circumstances, bot accounts are used to boost the popularity of one’s account, by either creating artificial followers or “likes,” but others may be used to promote their personal agenda. Let’s say that somebody in Canada feels like messing with a bunch of other people. He could potentially make a Facebook account and buy fake bot followers to make more people see his thoughts on, say, ketchup on pancakes. As harmless as this may seem, many large accounts have been tagged as fake in the past year alone. Earlier this month the largest “Black Lives Matter” profile in the world, larger than the official one, came out as a scam, as all of the money raised for the cause on the account was actually sent to a middle-aged man in Australia.

With all of today’s advancements in technology and A.I (Artificial Intelligence), the use of bots in our day-to-day lives is becoming more and more prevalent; however, it has reached a point where their use is not always for the best intentions. It’s always important to check if the account you’re viewing is run by bots, and if it is, make sure to flag the account to help take it off the site for good.

* photo via Google Images under the Creative Commons license