Social Media OPSEC

Spotting Bots

Bots on Social Media

A bot is an automated account run by software capable of posting content or interacting with other users. Some bots pretend to be humans, while others don’t. Bots are especially prevalent on Twitter.

In February 2018, Twitter announced changes to its Application Programming Interface that would reduce the ability of services that allow links and content to be shared across multiple accounts, which would affect bots. Yet, bots continue to proliferate. Be aware that some bots are part of a botnet, or a network of bots that tweet in a coordinated manner. These bots often share the same verbatim tweets and sometimes operate to get specific hashtags trending.



The less personal information available on account, the more likely it belongs to a bot. Look for user names that seem to contain too many numbers and generic profile photos. Perform a reverse image search to see if multiple accounts use the same profile photo.


Bots frequently engage in suspicious activity. A bot account may have only one tweet with a very high level of engagement, or send out a large number of tweets in a short period of time. Divide the number of tweets by the number of days the account has been active to see how frequently it posts. According to the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, more than 72 tweets per day is suspicious, and over 144 tweets per day is highly suspicious.


Most bots exist to amplify content. On a typical bot timeline, there will be lots of retweets, word-for-word copied-and-pasted headlines, and/ or shares of news stories without additional comment. There is little original content on a bot account.

You can report bot accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. If you’re inundated with comments from bot accounts on a particular post, consider posting one comment with factual information and a source to dispel disinformation.