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Twitter rolls out new labels to a small group of bot accounts, for testing

New Delhi, Fri, 10 Sep 2021 NI Wire

Twitter on Thursday announced that the company is rolling out labels for automated accounts or bot accounts, to test the new feature introduced by the company to make the “Twitter experience better” said its FAQ help centre article on the new feature.

Automated or bot accounts of Twitter are generally accounts on the microblogging platform that are controlled by bot software, which performs the general tasks of a Twitter user, like liking tweets, tweeting, re-tweeting, but have a larger goal that it wishes to fulfil. Twitter bots can help users to find vaccination appointments or give early disaster warnings, amongst other activities they can be programmed to do.

Twitter with its new feature wishes to make these accounts easily identifiable by users, which would give the users a better idea and purpose of the account they are interacting with.

These new automated account labels would help a user identify “good bots from spammy ones”, said Twitter. The labels would appear when an automated account shares content or information to other accounts, for users to distinguish better.

Twitter, for now, has not rolled out features for all developers, but only is testing it on an invite-only group of developers, which allows them to identify their automated accounts to other users, with these labels.

Twitter would add an “automated account”  label on the account’s profile, under their profile name and handle, for those who have accepted the invitation of the invite-only test group. However, Twitter wishes to roll out this feature for all developers of such automated accounts, by the end of this year.

Although Twitter bots can be a useful tool for the users of the platform, if developed for good purposes, like broadcasting important content like weather emergencies in real-time, sharing informative content en masse, and generating automatic replies via direct messaging, some bots on Twitter are created with malicious intentions, like spreading fake news campaigns, spamming, violating others’ privacy, and sock-puppeting.

Twitter bot scams over the past years, as social media has gained traction in all aspects of life, have also increased. Automated bots are made to mimic humans on Twitter, which makes them hard to spot as well. These accounts go on to bully, intimidate and persuade other users.
Cybercriminals have also actively used such Twitter bots to spread malicious content or malware content to large groups of people. Bots have also been used to further political propaganda and influence elections. This could potentially hamper the functioning of institutions within a country.

Twitter, while having strict guidelines for all its users, which these bots are also subjected to, also suspends millions of automated accounts from its platform every year.

This new feature as Twitter also says, helps a user to identify an automated account when they are interacting with content shared by the account also, helps in better distinguishing “good” bots from the “spam-my” bots.

The release of this feature is late, compared to Twitter’s July time frame that was previously promised, which scheduled the labels to be released this year. Additionally, Twitter is also working on labels to memorialize people who have passed away.

-Supratik Mitra (10/09/21)

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