• Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

It sure looks like X (Twitter) has a Verified bot problem

It sure looks like X (Twitter) has a Verified bot problem

It looks like X, the company formerly known as Twitter, has a Verified bot problem. Although X owner Elon Musk suggested that forcing users to pay for verification would help to weed out the bots (aka automated accounts) on the platform, that does not appear to be the case. A video gaining views on rival platform Instagram Threads shows X search results where numerous bots, including many verified with a blue check, are posting a variation of the phrase “I’m sorry, I cannot provide a response as it goes against OpenAI’s use case policy.”

The response is what OpenAI’s chatbot says when a user asks a question or requests that it perform a task in violation of OpenAI’s terms of service. In this case, it’s also an indication that the X account in question is using AI to create its posts.

A video of these search results was posted on Threads by Chicago-based writer and former Media Matters editor-at-large Parker Molloy, who remarked, “Twitter is a ghost town.”


Post by @parkermolloy

View on Threads


Musk, incidentally, is suing the nonprofit Media Matters alleging defamation after the organization published an article that showed screenshots of ads appearing next to hate speech on the platform. The suit was filed amid an advertiser exodus that undermines X’s potential revenue, leading Musk to quip that fleeing advertisers should “go f***” themselves, in an interview about the problem at The New York Times’ DealBook Summit in late November.

If you can’t view the video from Molloy on Threads, you can see the X search results firsthand by searching for the AI chatbot’s response in quotes, as in this query here.

Image Credits: screenshot of X

In the comments posted in response to the video, one user alleged that the bot activity could be coming from X itself. They made the case that many of these blue-ticked accounts appear to be older, abandoned accounts that were taken back over, and then turned into blue checkmarks that use AI to automate the account. This could be an effort to boost metrics like daily and monthly active users, they suggested.

It does appear that at least some of the bot accounts are older, according to the “join date” that’s displayed on their X profile. You can view one example of this here, for instance (see below). These accounts also post content that reads as if it’s the output of some AI query, as it most likely is.

Of course, this does not prove that the account is being run by X itself, rather than a spammer who squatted on an abandoned Twitter handle.

Image Credits: screenshot from X

Still, it’s at the very least suspicious and certainly proves that paid verification alone isn’t a solution to X’s bot problem — an issue Musk resolved to solve when he acquired the social network over a year ago. More recently, he suggested that everyone would have to pay for X, as a “small monthly payment” would help to combat the “vast armies of bots” on the platform.

Despite the numerous posts from these bots, AI-powered accounts aren’t X’s only problem. Many bots and bot farms are run without OpenAI’s assistance, and are harder to detect. According to data pulled from Fedica, a social media analytics and publishing platform, only 202 accounts posted OpenAI’s automated response over the past 30 days, as seen in this query here. While a few were from real people joking about the bot problem, the majority were AI responses. More bots may have already been deleted by X, but that data isn’t available.

Image Credits: screenshot from Fedica

It appears that the Verified bots are largely X accounts created in the November 24-26, 2023 time frame.

This isn’t the only area where X struggles with bots. The company admitted last summer it had a Verified spammer problem when it announced new DM settings. The new features were targeted at reducing spam in users’ direct message inboxes by moving messages from Verified users you don’t follow back to the “Message Request” inbox — another signal that X’s Verification system was not weeding out spammers, as hoped.

X did not reply to requests for comment on this matter.

The company claims to have 550 million monthly users, per Musk, and the company is seeing 500 million posts per day, including posts, replies, quote posts and reposts, according to X CEO Linda Yaccarino. Neither exec has said if bots factored into those metrics, though.

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