Those Twitter likes you're getting aren't coming from real people anymore

Those Twitter likes you're getting aren't coming from real people anymore

CultureMarch 13, 2017 By Brian Frederick

Think Twitter is only for bloviating egomaniacs who love to hear themselves talk in real life yet also get a twisted satisfaction from typing every-fucking-thing that comes to mind? Well, yeah, it's that — but it's also full of bots egging them on, too. Turns out, there are close to 50 million fake profiles that engage with people daily, often pushing grassroots social issues, news stories and 'celebrities' to a phony sense of importance.

A few researchers figured this out accidentally by stumbling upon a big problem within the site. The astute observers from USC came upon this it while studying how users interact with Twitter and what they use it for. By using leverage of "more than a thousand features extracted from public data and meta-data about users: friends, tweet content and sentiment, network patterns, and activity time series," the study's authors found that up to 15 percent (a conservative guesstimation by their own admission) of 'people' on Twitter aren't even real.

This is a far cry from Twitter's own estimates in a SEC filing last month of only 8.5 percent.

This isn't a good thing for Twitter at all. In the past few years, the micro-posting application has seen its user base go stagnant — and its stock continues to drop to stupid levels. Through all of this, Twitter hasn't taken any steps to innovate or separate itself from growing competitors, most notably Facebook and Instagram which are both killing the game right now.

So what is Twitter for exactly? It might be a go-to spot to get up to date information on breaking news, except news is rarely accurate in the first hours after it's unleashed on the Internet. So basically, using Twitter is little more than a self-congratulatory diary for people who have the need to seem important. Those little hearts, they're like fuel for the subconscious — and now we know they're mostly bullshit. 

Awesome.