There appears to be a Twitter bot farm, with nearly 130,000 fake accounts that are targeting London accounts, including the Mayor of London, the Evening Standard and a number of listings websites and venues.

They all follow the same 21 accounts, none of them seem to follow each other, and none of them have tweeted.

An account is created, and generally within 15 minutes, they have followed the same 21 accounts as all the others. Then they sit there dormant, doing nothing, yet the bot farm is growing.

What is their purpose? Is it a spam factory that’s getting ready to splurge London with spam. Or is it a political campaign waiting for some event to occur when they will spring to life to promote their maker’s political views and make it look like there is popular support?

We don’t know.

What is known is that the creator of the Twitter bots accounts is active and punching them out at a fairly decent speed. They could be Russian, after all, most of the fake account generators on Twitter are, but the Russians tend to more sophisticated, and these were fairly easy to detect.

They’re here, they are legion, and they are waiting to strike.

Based on some work over the weekend, here’s the list of the fake bots that I can determine at this time as a downloadable CSV file.

It’s actually quite difficult to report a fake account to Twitter. Even if I were minded to write a script to report nearly 130,000 accounts, the only fake account report Twitter accepts is where someone is being impersonated.

Purely fake accounts that are just fake, are not reportable, which seems an omission.

Tagged with:

Whats's on in London: today or tomorrow or this weekend

4 comments on “Large scale Twitter bot farm targeting Londoners
  1. Guy says:

    When you open a new Twitter account from a London-area IP address, Twitter automatically pushes you to follow a few dozen accounts relevant to your location. (I imagine most major cities have their own set of ‘default accounts’ to follow.) The 21 accounts you mention are chosen by Twitter as ‘great for newbies’ rather than by the bots themselves.

    It’s much quicker to just click ‘OK, next’ than manually deselect these accounts.

    Therefore, this list likely consists of a mix of bots, Londoners that signed up for Twitter but never tweeted and abandoned it soon after, ‘test’ accounts created for any temporary reason by a developer, and so on.

    (Source: I was the former social media manager for one of these brands, and was accidentally blessed by huge numbers of ‘new followers’ each month, very few of which were actually real, but in my defence I definitely wasn’t doing anything to encourage it, and there was also no way to stop it, plus some of them were simply ‘Londoners joining Twitter for the first time.’)

  2. Peter says:

    Yep – when I joined Twitter I got pushed to follow a number of accounts like the Mayor of London and Evening Standard. I am not Russian.

  3. DC says:

    It could be that these accounts are doing a Martha Lane-Fox

  4. Andrew Gwilt says:

    Its bit like Facebook with dealing with bot fake Facebook accounts. And you have to be careful because some might of them can hack into your Facebook account. If you haven’t changed your details and/or added a rescue email address which does helps when your account is being hacked or someone trying to hack into your account. From a location that is prone to hacking.

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