The spread of misinformation and hate speech on social media is an issue that companies are seemingly trying to fight. Twitter announced on its blog this week that it will introduce a new function to allow users to spot automated accounts in 2021.

“In 2021, we’re planning to build a new account type to distinguish automated accounts from human-run accounts to make it easier for people to know what’s a bot and what’s not,” the company said on Thursday.

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According to Cloudflare social media bots are automated programs used to engage in social media. The bots behave in an either partially or fully autonomous fashion and are often designed to mimic human users. 

Not all social media bots are bad, some are good for weather updates and sports scores. These ‘good’ social media bots are clearly identified as such and the people who interact with them know that they are bots.

However, a large number of social media bots are malicious and spread misinformation or shut down free speech.

Here is how you can spot a bot on social media:

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What does the profile look like?

One of the most common ways to spot a bot is by scanning the profile. Check out the profile picture, if they have one. If it’s a generic icon or a picture of a cute cat then it could be a bot.

What is the users’ name?

If it is a string of numbers and letters, that’s also a good sign that the name was auto-generated and the account is a bot.

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When was it created?

If the account is brand new or a couple of months old then that should raise some red flags.

How often are they posting?

If the account’s timeline is filled with posts at a rate that just doesn’t seem humanely possible than chances are its a bot.

According to Avira, their daily activity is more intense than that of an average social media user. However, oftentimes, the posts are not original: bots are created to amplify the messages that their creators want to disseminate, so they will like and share a lot of posts without expressing an opinion on the content. Their job is to spread the message as quickly as possible and get it trending.

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How are the posts written?

What language is being used in the posts? It is repetitive or just a bit awkward? According to TechRepublic, bots often use formulaic or repetitive language in posts. Also, if an account tweets the same link over and over or seems fixated on one topic, that’s another telltale sign of a bot.

Be cautious before sharing posts and stay safe online.