Source: Google

Twitter has been suffering from weak user base since a long time and now, a study has revealed a surprising news, which would be troubling for the social network. Around 15% of Twitter accounts, which is around 71 million accounts, are in fact bots instead of people, according to new research from the Indiana University and University of Southern California.

Over 15% of Twitter accounts are bots: Study

It could be possible that a huge amount of retweets, followers, and likes that you get on your Twitter account may possibly be coming from bots and not humans. For the micro-blogging giant, which has been struggling for years to increase its user base and give decent competition to social media giants like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, among others, this is bad news.

The researchers at University of Southern California used more than 1K features to identify bot accounts on the social network, in categories including Tweet content, sentiment, time between tweets, and friends. Researchers, using that framework, wrote that their estimates suggest that between 9% and 15% of active Twitter accounts are bots. The social network has 319 million monthly active users currently, which translates to around 48 million bot accounts, using the high-end estimate of USC.

The report further says that in their model, complex bots could have shown up as humans, making even “the 15% figure a conservative estimate.” The evaluation at 15% is far more that the social network’s own estimates. Last month, in a filing with the SEC, the micro-blogging site said that around 8.5% of all active accounts contacted the servers of the social media platform, “without any discernible additional user-initiated action.”

Nomura Instinet analysts wrote in a recent research report that “Twitter’s revenue growth has slowed to the mid-single digits, as the platform has struggled to attract new users over the past year.”

Twitter spokesperson says bots are quite important

In a talk about the bots, a Twitter spokesperson said often bots have negative connotations but many bot accounts are quite useful from customer service point of view and also because they automatically alert people of a natural disaster. The researchers of USC further emphasized the advantages of some bots, saying many bots perform important functions like dissemination of news and publications.

The USC report does not just reveal the benefits of bots but demerits as well. The study says, “There is a growing record of malicious applications of social bots. Some emulate human behavior to manufacture fake grassroots political support… [and] promote terrorist propaganda and recruitment.”

Currently, the micro-blogging site has many ways to report violations, like spam and impersonation accounts. Moreover, many services exist that claim to be able to identify fake accounts and audit followers.