Considering Twitter’s approach in fighting against the anonymous robot-like user accounts, at the request of some of my friends, I have decided to write the following notes based on our observations, so that the Support section of the Twitter may by any chance, stop such these user accounts after further consideration, and it may block them, because having such these overtly- fake user accounts around, has become terribly irritating for a large number of Iranians on Twitter.
The number of Iranian users of Twitter
As some restrictions have been imposed on the location in Iran, It is not possible to estimate the exact number of Iranian members of Twitter. On the other hand, the government has filtered Twitter, since 10 years ago, that is 2009, and therefore the access to Twitter has become more challenging for the Iranian.
All the above-mentioned notes aside, according to our observations on the number of visits paid to the Persian-speaking videos, the number of active Iranian users of Twitter, has been estimated more than 30,000. Iran has a population of 81 million and over 53 million of them have access to the Internet and out of this 53 million, more than 30 thousand are the members of Twitter. This statistical society, that is 0.03 percent of the whole population of Iran, has a great effect on the content and news production as well as its broadcasting. And one of the reasons that Twitter has been filtered is the considerable amount of effectiveness and awareness that this society is capable of developing.
In Iran the procedure is like this: first, a variety of news is produced and broadcasted on Twitter, and then it flows into the Persian-speaking channels on both Instagram and Telegram and in some cases, it would reach the official news agencies in the country! So it would be impossible to ignore the influential power of the little population of the Iranian members of Twitter…
The emergence of the fake Persian-speaking user accounts on Twitter
It was almost March 2016 that these robots with probably non-human user backs (the reason of which will be explained later) launched their operation on the Twitter in Persian, for the specific purpose of creating trends with political social sports and other topics and their number has increased since 2017.
These kinds of accounts know it very well that the algorithms on Twitter put great value on the number of likes and retweets. The fake user accounts which act like a robot operate in a way as if there is no real person behind. During specific events, the above-mentioned accounts try to make the political and social news highly sensational, opposing a particular trend, by tweeting, retweeting, and liking.
The purpose of fake user accounts
Such user accounts have acquired a kind of general understanding of Iranian’s thoughts, sensitivities and main concerns on Twitter. Also, they know how and by use of which techniques they tweet to get Iranian’s feelings (such as nationalism, pride, sorrow, and joy …) engaged in their user accounts because they are totally aware of this fact that according to Google algorithm this method would work well. These user accounts are not necessarily in favor of people’s ideas and gaining a kind of positive fruitful engagement is not what they really want, but they are just after a kind of engagement through which they would be able to achieve their ultimate goal which is creating political and other sorts of trends.
After a while, when the number of their user account engagements has increased, it would be the right time to show their true colors to everyone so they start to look for their real friends and like-minded people. To this end, they use the method of negative engagement tweeting. Now, instead of tweeting to engage the people’s feelings and emotions, they start tweeting in order to arouse people’s anger, rage, and hatred, for instance, tweeting against religion, racism, sexism, etc! So that the opposing side would be distinguished and other ignorant people would create more engagement for such accounts by quoting and mentioning their rage-arousing tweets.
In a nutshell, considering my observations, I can predict that the main goal of the above-mentioned user accounts is to increase the amount of their engagement as well as their effectiveness on Twitter so that they can use it when necessary, to destroy people and social-political or any other kinds of trends.
The features of fake user accounts
Considering my own experience and that of other Iranian users on Twitter, I intend to inform you about some key features of these user accounts so that you can identify them and do whatever you need to do. Not all fake user accounts have all the following characteristics but in my experience, I can say that if a user account has more than 3 of these signs it is definitely a fake one.
- The date of creating a user account
The date of creating the robot-like user accounts generally goes back to December 2018 and the time after. It has been noticed that some of these robot-like user accounts have purchased a couple of user accounts with an older date and they are actively using those ones. In some cases, they even claim that their previous user accounts have been closed and they enter Twitter with the new one.
- Odd and strange kind of usernames
They have such unusual user names as if it is a mixture of letters and numbers with no special meaning; it seems that these usernames have been generated. (Like: 8sd5440s or dddddyfh7)
- The number of followers and followings
The robot-like user accounts usually follow a large number of Twitter members in order to have people of different kinds so that they follow back these user accounts and as a result, these accounts would have enough audience to make a scene and create chaos.
The number of their followers and those following are usually the same (for example 3 thousand followers and 3 thousand followings) it shows that the time of their membership and the number of followers and followings don’t correspond at all.
- The topic of tweets
These user accounts generally tweet with sensational topics like sexism, racism and so on so that they can get a large number of “likes” and “retweets” by marginalizing all the important stuff. As a result, according to the Twitter algorithms, they would be selected as the best tweets and shown on the timeline of other members of Twitter.
- Stupid tweets, Favstar
On the other hand, they retweet whatever available to them, so when you consider the time of their making accounts and the time that they have been active, the number of their tweets doesn’t make any sense and seems improbable. For instance, it has tweeted:” why didn’t you say happy birthday to me?” and just like that it starred favorite!
- Accessing personal information
It has been noticed that sometimes they ask questions for the purpose of collecting personal information and some simple-minded people answer them easily. Questions like: what is your father’s name or what is your ID card’ number…
- Unusual biographies
They often use a lot of stickers in their biographies. They introduce themselves as either in favor of or opposed to political trends. They use sentences like:” you retweet I will retweet back, you like me I will like you back.”! So that others would be engaged more with their user accounts and in this way just after a month, the number of their tweets would increase to over 6 to 7 thousand.
- Excessive use of emoticons
They use a variety of stickers in an excessive and unusual way in their biography on Twitter.
- Promoting Factionalism (ganging up)
In their biography, they usually mention the usernames of other accounts as “spouse or girlfriend or close friend”, so that they can promote many user accounts at the same time.
- Still Promoting Factionalism (ganging up)
When you go to the “who to follow-show more” part of their accounts, you can see lots of other people looking just like them!
- Links of Suspicious sites
The majority of such these robot-like accounts use the telegram robot for sending an anonymous message called “me/BChatBot”. The first anonymous message-sending robot which became viral among Persian-speaking users of Twitter and Telegram was t.me/harfbeman
- User name photo and Google header
Generally, the user account photo of robot-like user accounts has been taken out of the Internet and the photos are of extremely low quality, so are their header photos.
And now, what shall we do to deal with these kinds of user accounts?
The existence of such these spam-like robots has made a lot of Persian-speaking users of Twitter incredibly angry to such an extent that they have spontaneously started a hashtag called #اکانت_ناامن, in order to inform each other about the user accounts with the above-mentioned features. Then, such these accounts would be blocked or reported to the Twitter and hopefully, they would not get involved in the creating of fake trends.
And last but not least, I myself do not suggest any solutions in this regard. It is up to you to block or report such these accounts.
What can Twitter do to help us out?
We request Twitter to deal with such these accounts with much more care and attention and we request Twitter to stop this psychological warfare by suspending their accounts to the extent possible.