Why fake followers ain’t funny
Some of the people we know aren’t real. I don’t mean the characters we’ve made up for stories, I mean phoney tweeple. And I don’t mean the tweeple who show off a bit. I mean those created, in bulk, for bad purposes.
Twitterland is a brilliant place to meet other writers and I like being there (it's definitely not, in any way, an addiction).
We all know there are bots about, but since May there's been a crowd of them following me. Unlike the ladybots, all gorgeous young things with empty bios, the fellas often had prefab personalities. They became familiar: the silver-fox bots, the peace-lovin’-high-rankin’ military bots, and the single-dad-looking-for-love-with-soulful-eyes bots. They arrived in their dozens, bringing with them their comedy typos.
Teehee, I thought, I’ll blog about that. Not the faux celebs, who are just silly, but the workaday bots and their grammatical struggles. There were 119 that day (there are more now). I checked their pics and join dates, read their bios, tweets and replies.
Cut to a sense of humour failure. These guys are at least creeps and could, plausibly, be criminal. Some of us are following these bots back. We shouldn’t.
How to spot your fake tweeple
Fishy profile pics: sometimes, you’d swear you’ve seen this guy before. Or, they’re fuzzy, unflattered, holding a leek, awkward in lederhosen. Nobody would choose this profile pic, even ironically.
Surreal header pics: such as a beige sofa, or a stock image of an industrial process, a blurry Mark Zuckerberg.
Excessively friendly: newbies who’ve followed hundreds and thousands, with a desperate following/follower mismatch. Don’t feel sorry for them.
Super-shy: most don’t tweet much, if at all.
Name agnostic: totally relaxed about the spelling of their names, Frank’ll call himself Frack and James is happy as Ham. An irrelevant user name is fine, in fact, they are totally cool with being a random number. Like all human beings.
Reversible names: many have a forename which might be a family name and vice versa. It’s almost as if they were randomly generated.
Biographically challenged: if they have a bio, it’ll almost certainly have a comedy error in it.
Proudly fun to Trump
i work as a marring Eugenia
glorify D lord
Too good to be true: any guy who starts by saying he is cool is automatically not. Voila bot-guy bio vocabulary as word art:
Calling out for a hero: the only careers these bots will consider is in the military, engineering or medicine.
Say that again: Their tweets may be repetitive. Sometimes they're abstract. It's almost as if they're randomly generated.
Life is love living when you work hard
Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning
greater things happen in a twinkle of a eye. the star is bright and shines forth
Shut up: Their replies to other followers make your skin crawl.
Before I started paying attention, I thought that these fake accounts were made for sale, to inflate follower numbers. I hadn’t seen my guys do the other stuff bots do, like sending spam or boosting trends.
When I read both Tweets and replies I found something else. These guy bots were using tweets, replies and mentions to contact women, and only women, often in multiples, sometimes targeting one repeatedly.
you look so much younger and beautiful than a lady your age, what's your secret ;)?
I love your post dear, you`r beautiful
Lovely pics, you cute
Nice to meet you charming princess
so beautiful hope we can be friends
How are you now baby
Hello sexey how you doing
Sometimes this incredible poetry got a response, and bad robot was happy.
can we connect?
Can we chat privately?
would like to chat with you on skype
would like to meet with you on (link)
I'm guessing this is where his maker took over. Moving the conversation out of the public space. Grooming.
Here’s the reasons I’ve come up with why somebody might steal photos from social media, make a fake guy and set him to grooming women:
Creep seeking gratification from vulnerable women.
Romance fraud (get to know online, invent crisis, request cash).
ID fraud (chat for the details to hack accounts).
Why it’s our problem
Some of us are following them. Hands up, when I checked, I’d followed one back (no longer). This gives them credibility.
I’m assuming that, like me, most of us have been ignoring them. Even though they make notifications less fun. Even though we wouldn’t want our least flattering pics stolen from social media and slapped on a bot. Even though we don’t want to get creepy messages ourselves.
Imagine we’re at a party. Some dodgy bloke walks in, buddying up to everyone, nobody has a clue who he is. He’s clearly pretending to be something he’s not, starts sharking around the women, until he finds the one who doesn’t know better. Would we all just look away?
Don't blame Twitter, it's just the house the party's at.
What we can do
Don’t follow fakes back: get your eye in.
Unfollow the bots who already snuck in: browsing profile pics I could spot ‘em easily.
Report fakes: Go to their profile, click the drop-down menu in the upper right corner and you’ve got your choice, spam or impersonation.
Twitter audit: free the first time. It only spotted 3 of my 100+ fakes but confirmed I'm not a bot, which was a relief.
Let’s do this thing, let's clean up Twitterland. It is real life there, after all.