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What are Social Media Bots?

  • Vrinda Mathur
  • Jan 19, 2023
What are Social Media Bots? title banner

In general, social media bots are automated programs that engage in social media. These bots operate partially or fully autonomously and are frequently designed to mimic human users. While there are benevolent social media bots, many are used in dishonest and nefarious ways. Some estimates show malicious bots account for a sizable proportion of all social media accounts.


Bots are automated social media accounts that run on thousands of phones and are controlled by a few people typing on a keyboard. They are not new to the world of social media.


They were initially designed to simulate social media marketing. These phone clusters were known as click farms or botnets. Their marketing services have been available almost since the inception of social media. A click farm's services are available to anyone. For a few dollars, you can buy followers, likes, reviews, and buzz for your product - for example, studios use them to generate online buzz for an upcoming film.


What is a Bot?


A bot is a software application that has been programmed to perform specific tasks. Bots are automated, which means they run according to their instructions without requiring a human user to start them up each time. Bots frequently mimic or replace the actions of human users. They typically perform repetitive tasks at a much faster rate than human users.


Bots typically operate over a network; bots account for more than half of Internet traffic, scanning content, interacting with webpages, chatting with users, and searching for attack targets. Some bots are beneficial, such as search engine bots that index content for search engines or customer service bots that assist users.


Any automated bot actions that violate the intentions of a website owner, the site's Terms of Service, or the site's Robots.txt rules for bot behavior can be considered malicious. Bots that attempt to commit cybercrime, such as identity theft or account takeover, are also classified as "bad." While some of these activities are illegal, bots are not required to violate any laws in order to be considered malicious.


Furthermore, excessive bot traffic can tax a web server's resources, slowing or stopping service for legitimate human users attempting to access a website or application. This is sometimes done on purpose, as in a DoS or DDoS attack.


  • Malicious bot activity includes the following:

  • Stuffing of credentials

  • Scraping of web content

  • DDoS or distributed denial-of-service attacks

  • Password cracking by brute force

  • Stockpiling of goods

  • Content that is spam

  • Harvesting email addresses

  • Click tampering


Bad bots may be distributed in a botnet to carry out these attacks and disguise the source of the attack traffic, which means copies of the bot are running on multiple devices, often without the knowledge of the device owners. Botnet traffic originates from a plethora of different IP addresses, making it more challenging to identify and block the source of the malicious bot traffic.


What is a Social Media Bot?


On social networks, social bots mimic human users. They are considered fake accounts if they do not indicate that they are machines. Many users are duped because they see credible information on a profile and believe they are conversing with people. This type of bot is frequently used to spread opinions on social media or to spark discussion in the interest of its operators.


Companies will occasionally use social bots for marketing purposes, such as faking how popular certain products are in order to encourage more people to buy them. They also occasionally post phony positive product reviews. They can also be used for political purposes, as they can influence the public debate by representing the views of specific political parties or politicians.


journalists and media companies, as well as humanities and social scientists, are affected by the polarizing effect of social bots. Furthermore, as the importance of social networks has grown, a separate industry has emerged that makes money by developing and deploying social bots. Using social bots is legal, making social bot technology a profitable business on the internet.


Social media bots are defined by the US Government's Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis as "programs that vary in size depending on their function, capability, and design; and can be used on social media platforms to do various useful and malicious tasks while simulating human behavior." These programs imitate legitimate users posting content by utilizing artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and other programs or databases."


According to Imperva, a leading cybersecurity company, "an internet bot is a software application that runs automated tasks over the internet." Automated technology tasks are typically simple and performed at a much higher rate than human Internet activity."


Bots are automated accounts that are generated by system codes, whereas social media bots are automated accounts that are created to increase social media engagement.


Companies now use coding knowledge to dominate the online influencing trend, offering to provide bots in bulk to do a variety of things, both good and bad. To that end, popular social media platforms such as Twitter have mechanisms in place to detect bots and remove them from their platforms.


Functions of Social Media Bots:


People who use bots do so for a variety of reasons. A list of some of the uses and functions of social media bots is provided below.

Functions of Social media Bots 1. Make Commercial Activities easier 2. Promote a company or individual 3. Disseminate Information 4. Financial market manipulation 5. Increase the popularity of a person

Functions of Social Media Bots 


  1. Make commercial activities easier:


Social media bots can be used to facilitate commercial activities on social networking sites such as Instagram as well as online web stores. Chatbots are now used in online stores to speed up company-to-customer interactions by sending automated messages or answering questions from potential customers. After a while, a real estate agent attends to these customers.


  1. Promote a company or individual:


One of the most common applications of social media bots is to boost the popularity of a company or individual. This is common on Instagram, where it is simple to post photos, share stories, and like and comment on others. This is also relevant because big brands prefer to work with celebrities and content creators who have a large following.


  1. Disseminate information:


Social media bots can also be used to disseminate information or misinformation, sway public opinion, or spread harassment or hate speech. The majority of this content can be found on Twitter, where people are increasingly turning for opinions and engagements on topics such as social issues and the latest products from popular commercial brands.


  1. Financial market manipulation:


Social media bots can also be used to influence financial markets. Bot accounts, for example, can flood social media with fake good or bad news about a company in an attempt to manipulate stock prices.


  1. Increasing the popularity of a person or movement artificially:


A person or organization with millions of social media followers may be regarded as influential or important. One common application for social media bots is to increase the apparent popularity of other accounts. On the black market, these follower bots can be bought and sold, with more convincing bots commanding a higher price.


Typically, social bots are used for marketing or political purposes. It is not uncommon for social bots to disseminate false information. To sway public opinion, a social bot employs bot-specific techniques that are also employed by other bot types. They search social networks for discussions on predefined topics (similar to web crawlers) and influence them as virtual conversation participants.


Social bots function similarly to chatbots or digital assistants in that they are used to communicate with people. However, there is one significant difference: whereas chatbots are typically used as a consulting service to assist the dialog partner, social bots are designed to deceive and manipulate.


Dangers and Effectiveness of Social Media Bots:


Most social bots are designed to influence opinions and trends on social media. However, there is some debate about how well social bots perform their functions. After all, many experts agree that social bots do a poor job and thus have little influence on social media users. According to a UX Magazine article, bots are overrated because they have limited response ranges and provide rigid answers, which gives them away.


There is general agreement that the work of social bots should be thoroughly researched. As a result, it is reasonable to expect that social research will yield more precise results in the coming years. 


A more detailed investigation of the technique would make sense for preventative purposes: while many bots are still easy to unmask, that doesn't mean technically-advanced bots are. This would increase bots' potential. To be able to respond to technological advancements, solution strategies must be developed early on.


Social bots primarily hold opinions that are diametrically opposed to those of the general public. Their operators use them to form opinions and employ techniques that prevent the exchange of ideas. However, the extent to which bots can actually influence public opinion has not yet been thoroughly researched; there is a lack of scientific evidence as to how effective they are.


Last but not least, it is always a good idea to remember how various social bots operate. If you come across an 'overloader' or an 'auto troll,' don't be provoked by their disturbing behavior. Even if the account is not being run by a bot, it is beneficial to ignore it and engage in constructive discussion with other users. This reduces the influence of both social bots and human troublemakers.





In conclusion, despite the negative press that social media bots have received as a result of a string of high-profile unethical and unsavory behavior involving some of them, they do have a legitimate place in the sun.


When used correctly, chatbots (also known as 'talk bots' or 'chatterbots') can improve an organization's social media presence and brand. They can benefit customers by, among other things, providing a quick response and a 24-hour presence. However, excessive use is detrimental because social media channels are ultimately about people connecting with people rather than technology.

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