How to tell if 'bots' are following you on social media - KCTV5 News

How to tell if 'bots' are following you on social media

Updated:
Have robots taken over your Twitter or Facebook accounts? We look at the growing problem of "bots" or "automated fake accounts" that follow you on social media. Should you be concerned? (KCTV5) Have robots taken over your Twitter or Facebook accounts? We look at the growing problem of "bots" or "automated fake accounts" that follow you on social media. Should you be concerned? (KCTV5)
FAIRWAY, KS (KCTV) -

It seems like there's a new report nearly every day about Russians using Facebook to influence our elections or sow discord among Americans.

Now, we're hearing about "bots," which are automated fake accounts that follow us on Twitter and other social media.

So how do you know if a bot is following you?

To find out, KCTV5 News asked local tech wizard Burton Kelso to look deep into KCTV5 News anchor Brad Stephens’ Twitter account.

Scrolling through Stephens' followers, Kelso says he’s looking for a pattern. And in less than three minutes, Kelso finds what he believes is a bot following Stephens on Twitter.

"Good thing I clicked on this, this one is pretty suspect," Kelso said.

Kelso then begins to scour the suspected bot's Twitter page to see what it’s up to. At first glance, Kelso says it's simply retweeting random advertisements.

"One of the things are ads for 'Fear the Walking Dead.' Have you noticed?” Kelso said.

Kelso is amazed at the sheer number of ads this bot is retweeting.

"So this one from India throws up a red flag because obviously this account isn't based in the United States. Why else would someone be tweeting about weather in India as opposed to weather here in the metro," Kelso said.

Kelso says if you have 200 followers on Twitter, there's a good chance one of them is a bot.

Here's what to look for:

  • Go to your main page on Twitter and click on "followers".
  • You want to find out who they are and what their interests are. Is there a profile picture of them? If not, that is your first red flag.
  • Have they included vacation photos or pictures of friends and family to personalize their twitter account? If not, here is a second red flag.
  • And if this "follower" does nothing but retweet others, it's probably an automated fake account.

So why should you care if a bot is following you?

"We want to keep the internet free ... and if you've got corporations and Russians that are putting this information out there, the internet doesn't become a free source of information. You just see a lot of influences out there from different parties that are trying to change the way we think and feel about specific information," Kelso said.

If you think a bot is following you, here's what to do:

  • Go to their main Twitter page and click on the three small dots or "more user actions" tab.
  • There, you can mute, block and even report the account to Twitter.  

Kelso recommends taking action because he says there can be a darker side to bots on Twitter and fake accounts that follow you on Facebook.

"Then, they can start to build a profile of you based on information that may be on the dark web. And the ultimate goal of cybercriminals is to create a new identity of you so they can do financial fraud," Kelso said.

If you're convinced bots are no big deal, some researchers estimate as many as 15-percent of all Twitter accounts are fake. However, Twitter disputes that and says the number is lower.

Copyright 2018 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly
KCTV 5 News

Online Public File:
KCTV  KSMO

Powered by WorldNow CNN
All content © 2018, KCTV; Kansas City, MO. (A Meredith Corporation Station) . All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.