Part of the Russian government’s well-documented interference in the 2016 U. election included pushing deliberately divisive messages through social platforms.
Investigators found that hundreds or thousands of dodgy Twitter accounts with Russian digital fingerprints posted anti-Clinton tweets that frequently contained false information.
Other Twitter account sellers focus on years-old “aged” accounts.
Typically, accounts with longer lifespans might be more valuable: if an account is older, and did not just spring to existence yesterday, Twitter may be less likely to flag the user as fraudulent, and it could be harder to spot that the account is in fact part of a bot army.
The service also separately advertises on a more legitimate-looking marketing site.
But for bots focused on political manipulation, the overwhelming number of accounts might be more of a priority than their quality.
Account vendors will, though, face obstacles as they build up their own bank of users to sell.
Making accounts in some sort of automated fashion, by using a script to quickly churn through Twitter’s sign up process, may trigger the social network’s fraud alarms and block the accounts, meaning at least some of the process is likely to be manual.“All accounts we have are created with bots or manually.
Delivery of the accounts is near instant, and is done largely automatically, with no direct human interaction required.
A Daily Beast investigation reveals manipulating Twitter is cheap. A review of dodgy marketing companies, botnet owners, and underground forums shows plenty of people are willing to sell the various components needed to run your own political Twitter army for just a few hundred dollars, or sometimes less.
And once your botnet is caught, due to holes in Twitter’s security and sign-up features, it takes only a few minutes to do it all over again.“It requires very little computing power to fire this stuff out,” Maxim Goncharov, a senior threat researcher at cybersecurity firm Trend Micro who has studied the trade of social media bots, told The Daily Beast.
Again, plenty of options exist, many designed for grey online marketers.
For just over 0, Tweet Attacks Pro lets users command an “unlimited” number of accounts, according to the product’s website.To test the service, The Daily Beast bought 1,000 accounts with the pseudo-anonymous digital currency bitcoin.