What are spambots & why is Elon Musk going after them on Twitter- Technology News, Firstpost | #socialmedia

In its most rudimentary form, a spambot is a programme that is used to spread across various avenues of the internet. It can be in the form of an email, or as is the case with Twitter, in the form of a fake or stolen profile, that spreads malicious comments.

Hackers and spammers have used spambots to spread malicious links, attack and harass people on the internet, malign campaigns, and in some cases, interfere in governance by swinging elections. 

Spambots have also led to legitimate accounts being hacked, which have then been used to spread misinformation. Clearly, spambots represent everything that is wrong, and everything that can go wrong with social media, and the Internet in general.

Why is Elon Musk going after Spambots?

What are spambots & why is Elon Musk going after them on Twitter

Given how big a proponent Elon Musk is for cryptocurrencies, it would seem natural that he is going after spambots. Across Twitter, there are several fake accounts which are used by spambots to scam people who have just started exploring cryptocurrencies. Some of these spambots operate in such sophisticated manners that at times even people who are conversant in tech have fallen victim to them. 

What are spambots & why is Elon Musk going after them on Twitter

Musk, in an interview, once said that if he had a dogecoin for every spambot and crypto scam he had come across, he would have at least a 100 billion Dogecoin portfolio

How do Spambots work?

Spambots, especially on Twitter, normally comment on tweets of legitimate and active Twitter users who have a decent following. Several spambots are also made to appear like original accounts of certain celebrities. These spam comments have links to malicious websites that can launch phishing attacks, and steal vital login information. At times, they also spread realistic-looking fake websites where unsuspecting users are made to share their bank or wallet details. 

On Twitter, there are various spambots that imitate legitimate NFT traders and crypto enthusiasts. When these spambots tweet out a malicious link asking their unsuspecting followers to buy a certain NFT or to invest in certain crypto, most followers mistakenly think that the real human user is using his secondary account to tweet, and end up trusting them. Elon Musk’s followers have fallen victim to a number of such scams.

How to recognise a Spambot?

A very rudimentarily designed spambot will use wrong spellings especially when it comes to names. Their tweets will also not be grammatically sound and will use some odd tone, that the real human user usually doesn’t use. Their timeline will also be filled with links to suspicious websites. A more sophisticated spambot, however, will take all this into account, and will be very sneaky. That is why it is important to check for the verified profile mark or the blue tick next to a username. Also, if a user has very few followers, has a very obvious pseudonym, and is very active about sharing links and commenting on other tweets, there is a good chance that the profile is actually that of a spambot.

How do Spambots compromise real human users?

What are spambots & why is Elon Musk going after them on Twitter

Some programmers can make their spambots look like real verified accounts. This seemingly real Tesla account, ran one of the biggest crypto scams in recent years before it was taken down.

Spambots compromise real human users in a number of ways. Not only do they help scammers cheat unsuspecting people, it also delegitimises legitimate internet activism and movement. Just think of the scepticism certain internet-based systems have had to face because of the highly unusual number of spam that got associated with it.

Spambots and spam comments all mess up the SEO results of legitimate websites. Most search engines actually reward a webpage if its links have been shared on a number of social media platforms. This is a core element of black hat SEO and although most search engines have a policy against such practices, implementing them in real life is a task.

Spambots that have been designed with malicious intent often spread fake news, and at times can also generate such news. This has led to elections being swayed, and real people being harmed. The most common use of spambots, however, is to lead people to suspicious websites and files that can then launch phishing attacks on a user’s system, and infect them with malicious files and viruses.

What challenges does Elon Musk face in his fight against spambots?

Twitter has been trying to deal with Spambots for some time now but to no real effect. Although Elon Musk has said that he will be “fighting spambots to death,” it is easier said than done. Musk hasn’t really shared a plan on how he plans to take on bots. 

Secondly, Musk also intends to make Twitter’s algorithms public. This is directly antithetical to fighting bad bots, because botmakers or programmers, use Twitter’s algorithms and safety systems to create programmes that can avoid detection.

And then, there is the problem of machine learning. Programmers have started making very sophisticated spambots that can evolve, create multiple, very realistic looking accounts, and work very secretively, thus avoiding detection.

The final problem is Musk himself, and his online behaviour. Musk is a massive troll and more often than not, his sarcastic tweets do not come across as such, especially to his followers. This makes it very easy for spambots to emulate his online activities, and fool people

But then, let’s not forget, this is the same man who made driving and owning EVs as practical and more economical as ICE automobiles. If there’s someone who can actually take on spambots and get rid of them for us, it has to be Elon Musk.

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