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HP Labs Research on "Twitter Cyborgs" and spam
 

HP Labs Research on "Twitter Cyborgs" and spam

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June 2010

June 2010
hpl.hp.com
@hplabs

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    HP Labs Research on "Twitter Cyborgs" and spam HP Labs Research on "Twitter Cyborgs" and spam Presentation Transcript

    • TWITTER CYBORGS
      Miranda Mowbray, HP Labs
      miranda.mowbray @ hp.com
      and Nazareno Andrade, TU Delft
    • “A cyborg is essentially a man-machine system in which the control mechanisms of the human portion are modified externally by drugs or regulatory devices so that the being can live in an environment different from the normal one"
      New York Times
      22 May 1960
    • TWIT(TER)MINOLOGY
      Tweets
      Public timeline
      Followers
      Direct messages
      Followees
      Follow ratio
      Trend
    • SOME RELATED WORK
      Java et al: follower and followee counts are correlated and have approx power-law distributions. Some automated use detected.
      A Java, X Song , T Finin and B Tseng, “Why We Twitter: Understanding Microblogging Usage and Communities”, August 2007
      Hubspot: the median number of tweets, followers, and followees are all zero.
      D Zarella, “State of the Twittersphere”, June 2009
      Cheng and Evans, Sysomos.com: 24% of all tweets made by accounts posting >150 tweets/day.
      A Cheng and M Evans, “Inside Twitter: An in-depth look inside the Twitter world”, June 2009, and “Inside Twitter: An In-Depth Look at the 5% of Most Active Users” August 2009
      Mowbray: dramatic rise in Summer ‘09 of accounts with > 100 tweets/day.
      M Mowbray, “The Twittering Machine”, April 2010 http://www.hpl.hp.com/techreports/2010/HPL-2010-54.pdf
    • OUR DATA
      13447 twitterers
      Randomly sampled from public timeline between 22 April and 3 May 2010
      http://api.twitter.com/1/statuses/public_timeline.xml
      1257 spammers
      Reported to Twitter over 7 days
    • RISE OF THE TWITTER CYBORGS
    • RISE OF THE TWITTER CYBORGS, IIPercentage of sampled tweets that are from users sending >100 tweets/day
    • “It’s about humans connecting with each other, and often in ways in which they couldn’t otherwise”
      EvWilliams
      Co-founder of Twitter
      BBC interview, 5 August 2009
    • WHAT ARE THE CYBORGS DOING?
      Of the 33 sampled cyborgs tweeting > 700 times/day:
      marketing and e-commerce
      Both legit businesses and porn/phishing sites
      services for which frequent updates are useful
      Clocks, weather data, software update announcements, news headlines
      services for which they aren’t all that useful
      Torrent site, website rating site, online pastebin
    • FOLLOWEE COUNTS
    • FOLLOWBACK DATA
      Experiment by Catalin Cosoi
      5/10 for fake users with many tweets
      Follow ratios for sampled spammers
      0.3/10 for spammers with < 5 tweets
      4.2/10 for spammers with ≥ 5 tweets
      So if you’re a spammer, tweet at least 5 times
    • THE PROBLEM WITH MEGAPHONES
      Image by Jonas Boni / daoro on Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/daoro/3382798413
      CC licence http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en_GB
    • FOUR CYBORG SPAMMING TECHNIQUESand how Twitter might defend against them
    • CYBORG SPAMMING 1
      Mention spam
      Mention usernames in tweets
      Tweets are automatically sent to users whose names are mentioned
      May tempt the user to follow you
      Possible defence by Twitter:
      Limit number of different usernames one user can mention in a time period
      Excluding names of their followers
    • CYBORG SPAMMING 2
      Trend spam
      Automatically include trend words in your tweets
      Notoriously, #iranelection
      Tweet will be shown if a user clicks on the trend in the trends list
      Or does a Twitter-search for the trend
      Possible defences by Twitter:
      Order search results based on reputation
      Suppress multiple-trend tweets
    • CYBORG SPAMMING 3
      Fake-retweet spam
      Abuse retweet convention
      “RT @name” convention for quoting others’ tweets
      Abuse this to make your ad or phishing URL appear to be from someone else
      Possible defence by Twitter:
      Track retweets, suppress “implicit” ones
      Machinery to do this is already in place
    • CYBORG SPAMMING 4
      Follow spam
      Follow lots of users, send tweets or DMs to those that follow back
      Some target types of user to follow
      Some churn followees to get round Twitter’s ~2000 limit
      “Auto-Follow, Auto-Unfollow, Auto-Tweet & DM.”
      Possible defence by Twitter:
      Require a CAPTCHA solution to follow a user
      Unless the user follows you first
    • A SAD STORY FROM XKCD
      Image from xkcd.com, http://xkcd.com/632 ,
      CC licence http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.5/
    • VARIANTS
      Twitter zombies
      Used to be human, account compromised
      Eg. Barack Obama’s account
      “To increase your follower count, type your Twitter password here”
      Twitter werewolves
      Automated only at certain times, human otherwise
      Eg. Facebook games advertising on players’ Twitter accounts
      Eg. Human account owner agrees to include automated ads
    • LESSONS FOR HUMAN+CYBORG ENVIRONMENTS
      Be careful when you release your API
      But do release it
      Limit automated use of the system
      Increase cost (in time, money or effort) of unwanted cyborg behaviours
      Opt-in-only marketing can still have large negative externalities
      Don’t let cyborg marketers do lots of attention-catching at small or zero cost
    • Thanks