Twitter has a huge problem with Russian bots.
It was obvious during the 2016 U.S. election, when Twitter accounts popped up all over the place spreading lies about Hillary Clinton and praising Donald Trump.
It has been obvious since, as Russian bots on Twitter are all over the social media platform tweeting misinformation about gun control, employment figures, Muslims, immigrants, Donald Trump’s collusion with Russia and, yep, Hillary Clinton. Still.
Today, however, one tweet that was obviously from a Russian bot appeared in my Twitter feed that had been retweeted by NBC News reporter Ben Collins.
Collins re-tweeted someone else’s response to the bot, and simply commented “Simply incredible”.
The original tweet Collins re-tweeted was supposedly written by Dr. Michael Stuart, a Texas doctor who apparently supports Trump.
“And NONE of it is RUSSIAN COLLUSION” — obviously in response to another tweet commenting on Trump and his Russia collusion.
The problem with the tweet?
As Debra Hirsch, the person Ben Collins re-tweeted and the person who commented on Dr. Stuart’s original tweet said, “Dr. Stuart, you’ve been dead for three years”.
She also included a screenshot of Dr. Stuart’s obituary in the Dallas Morning News as proof.
Yep. The Texas physician who seems to be a big Trump supporter is actually a bot set up by someone in Russia who managed to hack Dr. Stuart’s original Twitter account after he died.
Since then, they have been tweeting about fat loss supplements, girls and, recently, a whole slew of political things supportive of Donald Trump.
To Twitter’s credit, they did remove Dr. Stuart’s Russian bot Twitter account a few hours after other users tweeted them saying “Erm…Russian bot account”.
The Russian bots on Twitter problem, however, is still on-going and, if my cursory research into it shows, it is getting worse.
Currently, Twitter has a huge problem with Russian bots tweeting erroneous information about vaccine safety. These same accounts were tweeting about Donald Trump and the 2016 election before they started in on the vaccine narrative.
Twitter also recently admitted more than 50,000 Russian bots were on their platform tweeting about the 2016 election with either misleading information or downright lies. These bots had apparently reached more than 677,000 Americans with their tweets before they were shut down.
The problem also lies in the fact that many Russian bots on Twitter behave in exactly the same way as Twitter trolls. Making it difficult for both Twitter and Twitter users to distinguish between Russian bot and idiot.
Recently, Twitter was also forced to contact more than 1.4 million people using the social media platform, and tell them they had interacted with Twitter bots that were being run by the Russian-linked Internet Research Agency (IRA).
In other words, as Russian bots on Twitter continue to spread their misinformation and lies, the rest of us can do nothing much but either keep a vigilant eye and report obvious bots to Twitter Support, or simply move away from the platform and spend our time doing something more constructive instead.
I chose to do the latter. Especially as Twitter has not been taking the problem of Russian bots as seriously as they should be.
In fact, if anything, they seem to be encouraging them simply by refusing to be aggressive with their methods of finding them and stopping them.
Then again, more Twitter accounts means more money for Twitter and founder Jack Dorsey, right?