I’m a former CIA cyber-operations officer who studies bot traffic. Here’s why it’s plausible that more than 80% of Twitter’s accounts are actually fake—and Twitter is not alone

At the center of [the Twitter] conflict is the subject of bot traffic, which is something I know a fair bit about. For the past six years, my job has been to lead a team of data scientists who analyze web interactions to identify bots, the applications bots are targeting, and their objectives.

…When I consider the volume and velocity of automation we’re seeing today, the sophistication of bots that a given set of incentives is likely to attract, and the relative lack of countermeasures I saw in my own research, I can only come to one conclusion: In all likelihood, more than 80% of Twitter accounts are actually bots. This, of course, is my opinion.

I’m sure Twitter is trying to prevent unwanted automation on its platform, similar to every company. But they are likely dealing with highly sophisticated automation from extremely motivated actors. In those circumstances, bot remediation is not a DIY project. It requires equally sophisticated tools.  

However, there is something much more important at stake here. The problem of bots is bigger than any advertising revenue or stock price or company valuation. Allowing this problem to persist threatens the entire foundation of our digital world.

Allowing bots to proliferate from anywhere leads to massive fraud that costs billions. It ruins people’s lives and provides tools for nations and nefarious organizations to spread misinformation, create conflicts, and even influence political processes. It means more fraud, more misinformation, more conflict that impacts our ability to communicate and relate to each other worldwide.


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