UPDATE: To clarify Twitter's statement in the filing, the (up to) 8.5 percent of accounts that "automatically contacted our servers for regular updates without any discernable additional user-initiated action" could include apps pulling content and displaying it without manual user action. It doesn't necessarily mean posting to Twitter without user-initiated action, like a bot. The 8.5 percent is also a high-end value.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Twitter just submitted its quarterly report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and buried inside is an interesting little tidbit about the company and bot accounts.
Out of Twitter's 271 monthly active users, how many would you say are bots?
Well, according to Twitter, a little over 23 million.
Here's Twitter's explanation in boring financial filing jargon:
Our metrics are also affected by third-party applications that automatically contact our servers for regular updates with no user action involved, and this activity can cause our system to count the users associated with such applications as active users on the day or days such contact occurs. Historically we tracked and reported in this section all users who accessed Twitter through third-party applications. We have reviewed and refined our processes, however, to calculate a new metric that is comprised of only such active users who have used applications with the capability to automatically contact our servers for regular updates where there was no discernable user action involved. In the three months ended June 30, 2014, approximately 11% of all active users solely used third-party applications to access Twitter. However, only up to approximately 8.5% of all active users used third party applications that may have automatically contacted our servers for regular updates without any discernable additional user-initiated action.
You know, 8.5 percent isn't all that bad, considering we're already living in a world where bots outnumber humans on the web.