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Spam and Bots: May the 4th Be With You… But Not the Bots!

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May the 4th has become a tech holiday, but it's not all fun and games. Bots and spam infiltrate social media, impacting influencers and brands alike. Combatting this requires automated tools and human moderation.

As most fans know, May the 4th became Star Wars Day because of the phrase, “May the force be with you,” used by Jedi masters in the classic space battle between “good” and “evil”.

But what does May the 4th have to do with bots and spam and your social media? Or Martha Stewart for that matter. A lot.

We’re here to celebrate May the 4th as it has become a tech holiday of sorts. From STEM schools to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Star Wars has been heralded as the rebirth of celebrating science. And just as Star Wars became a household word, so has advanced technology such as social media. The rise of social media has also created a new career category now known as “influencing” that is occupied by “influencers” whose opinions tend to have significant sway over the everyday consumer.

So, what better way to prove one’s influence than the number of “followers” one might have on a given social media platform like Facebook, Instagram, or BlueSky. Unless, of course, those followers are…fake.

Yes, there are now “ethical” bot companies, that are recommended online, for anyone looking to go to the “Dark Side” of the Force and exploit fake followers with fake reviews for the appearance of being popular. Bots can help influencers and celebrities trying to monetize social media by quickly growing their sites with fake users. According to a recent post-purchase survey of almost 4,000 people by Respondology, 68% claimed that they read social media comments before they bought.

Social bots will automatically comment, like, and follow other users 24/7, after selecting certain hashtags, bringing accounts a lot of interaction with relevant content and users (sometimes fake). This interaction then generates many new likes and followers for their own profile. Mark Cuban, an entrepreneur, and Shark Tank star, was found to have paid for 59% of his Twitter followers. Fakes. While Oprah was found to have 50% fake followers and dead accounts for a total of around 11.6 million on her Instagram profile. But, despite the benefits of faked reviews, bots and spam can also take advantage of some of the most profitable sites and ethical influencers by delivering unwanted messages and offers.

One of the greater problems with bot and spam networks, however, is disinformation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that nearly 45% of tweets about the Coronavirus were posted and shared by bot accounts. Tragically, the fake news shared through social media had tragic real-world consequences, even sparking the first wave of the anti-mask movement that also led to higher infection rates and deaths among health-compromised contingencies. This sort of disinformation can also occur politically and lead to division across the country.

The spam created by bots to drive traffic to sites, many of them unwanted to most web users, have become a horrific challenge to legitimate brands by curbing their followers due to receiving unwanted spam traffic. This is the very thing that led celebrity chef Martha Stewart to lash out at Instagram recently and call them out for not doing a better job policing their social members. And where Instagram has instituted new guidelines and techniques like social media account authentication and user verification for spotting these fake followers on any account, it will take the Force along with malicious link detection capabilities, reputation scoring, and automatic spam flagging to battle the Death Star rise in bots that are affecting the $174 Billion market of social media advertising.

The sheer volume of today’s growing bot traffic requires automation to fight automation. With Twitter spending over $750 million – a month – just to maintain the site, and bot traffic growing at over 500% now year over year, bots and the inherent spam generated by them will require automated capabilities driven by human review and real-time moderation. Jedi mind tricks ranging from automated moderation tools to IP filtering and blocking, to simple keyword filtering will be necessary in the fight against the bots as they shape-shift and change to adapt to increased defensive capabilities.

By using technology from companies like Respondology, you can rest easy knowing that your brand’s reputation is safe and your audience is protected from online toxicity. Our user-friendly dashboard lets you hide 95% of spam and bot activity from your social media feeds in real-time. The combination of timing, advanced technology, and human moderators allow Respondology to track and analyze trends in comment volume, hide rates, and the percentage hidden by humans. All to give consumer brands the ability to take back control of their social image (and investment) while hiding comments a discreetly. The comprehensive approach provides the protection for consumer brands of a trained Jedi Knight.

In short, May the 4th be with you!

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