Vince Tabora

@vincetabora

“Botting” and Task Automation on Social Media

“Botting” is the process of using software automation to perform tasks. It can has become popular on social media. Some companies provide this as a service to boost following on social media. This makes use of “bots” much like the ones used in old IRC chat rooms. Bots can also spam and attack networks when coordinated. They are illegal to use on social media platforms, yet they are still being provided as a service by third parties. Celebrities and many public figures use these services to boost their social media image. It makes them appear to have many followers and that in effect can legitimize being a social influencer. From a business perspective that can be monetized through sponsors who advertise products and services.

Bots are software apps that can automate tasks

Social media sites are now cracking down on this. Instagram uses a neural network, which can detect botting by analyzing word frequency in comments posted by accounts. If you get caught, your account(s) gets a “shadowban” or even deleted. This is the reason some people’s account suddenly get deleted or deactivated. When Instagram detects anomalous activity from the account, it shuts it down. Some companies provide botting service for a fee. The way this works is the company takes your Instagram or Twitter account and with your permission creates a bot that performs tasks on your behalf. So this means a bot is doing the likes, comments and following as your account, and it can do thousands of these a day. The result is to get more social engagement like followers, comments, likes and the occasional DM. Many who have tried these services see it otherwise. A photographer who tried botting for 2 years had an awkward experience when the bots made unnecessary comments or liked photos which were not even of great quality. Another purpose of bots is to follow other users. Some companies that promoted botting in the past have recently been shutdown. This was upon the request of non other than Instagram.

Some sites have shutdown due to botting activities which social media apps don’t allow.

Some social media promotion companies actually use your account to follow other accounts and likewise. The tradeoff here is that you get followers, but you also need to follow other accounts. It is all automated as a task. Some followers are obviously fake with names like “GET_More_Followers” or “InstaFollowers4Free”. These are part of a botnet or bot network that are triggered to follow a certain user account. Bots also can reference hashtags like #picoftheday #summertime #YoLo. In Instagram, code automation will then use your account to go over a slide of photos with a certain hashtag and either like them or leave a comment. Sometimes it is easy to tell that a comment is left by a bot when it just sounds strange or inappropriate. Webmasters have implemented a “robots.txt” file on servers to provide a guideline for bots to follow when visiting their website. Any bot that is “spidering” or violating these rules is removed or banned. Twitter and other social media sites have likewise implemented their own “robots.txt” file to prevent bots spamming and fake users, but there are automated tasks that are still able to pass. For bots less risky tasks such as liking, following and unfollowing seem to get through, as happens on IG and Twitter. These bots may not actually be increasing any organic social engagements at all, since they tend to interact with other bots. Another way tasks are automated is with macroing, which uses scripts to perform the things that allow delegation of a user’s account to like, comment, follow and unfollow an acccount.

Code can be written to run an automated task for a social media account as shown in this pseudocode.

As Instagram states in their “General Conditions Instagram Terms of Use”:

15. You must not create accounts with the Service through unauthorized means, including but not limited to, by using an automated device, script, bot, spider, crawler or scraper.

Disclaimer: This information is provided for reference. No actual code automation or botting was used for this presentation.

References:

  1. Photographer who botted for 2 years: https://petapixel.com/2017/04/06/spent-two-years-botting-instagram-heres-learned/
  2. Instagram Terms of Use:
    https://www.instagram.com/about/legal/terms/before-january-19-2013/
  3. Botting defined on Wikipedia:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_bot
  4. Instagress shutdown:
    https://www.theverge.com/2017/4/20/15374080/instagram-bot-site-instagress-dead

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