If you’re active on Twitter, you’ve probably encountered plenty of bots – fake users that spam the hell out of you with links, free iPad offers, and other dubious things. These accounts are just a part of the Twitter experience, and many times they are incredibly easy to spot.
But sometimes you’re up in the air about whether an account is automated or being operated by a real life human being. Some journalism students at The New School in New York have developed a test that will tell you who’s really behind that Twitter handle.
The Bot or Not test is the culmination of a semester-long project that had students analyzing thousands of articles and how they were linked and retweeted to the Twitterverse. They started out by tracking articles from three sites – Mashable, Read Write Web, and Tech Crunch.
In order to determine the botfestation of the web, we focused on three popular tech media sites: Mashable, Read Write Web, and TechCrunch. Once a story was published by one of these sites, we tracked the number of times people shared it on Twitter within the first two and half hours after being published.
We tracked 159 stories, which together were tweeted over 79,000 times by more than 18,000 distinct twitter users. We then built a multi-stage test to determine whether a user is a bot, or not. Next, we applied the test to our data to find the percentage of users that are bots.
What they determined was that 15% of the accounts that they tracked were bots and an additional 16% were labeled “probably bots.” Only 33% passed the test and were labeled human (36% were “probably human”).
To create the test, we gathered various criteria that demonstrated either very human or very bot-like behavior on a high-low scale. Tweeting only links to Mashable stories, for instance, is considered very bot-like behavior
And now, you can enter any Twitter handle into the bot test and it will give you its best determination based on a few signifying factors. For instance, here’s what it said about me:
It looks like it penalized me for posting a lot of links – something I admit to doing. But since I do reply to other users and because I don’t follow a suspiciously large number of people – I got the probably human nod.
Here’s how another account was treated:
Twitter bots are tough to battle, and they seem to pop up despite efforts to keep them at bay. But this nifty new tool will at least give you a little bit of information on any suspicions you may have,