Dating spam bot
If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend taking a look at it before reading this article, since I’ll refer back to it occasionally. In my […] In January 2018, I wrote a couple of blog posts outlining some analysis I’d performed on followers of popular Finnish Twitter profiles.A few people asked that I share the tools used to perform that research.Of course, due to Twitter API rate limit restrictions, the whole crawler loop was throttled so as to not perform more queries than the API allowed for, and hence crawling the network took quite some time.My script recorded a graph of which accounts were following/followed by which other accounts.
I started by checking this one: Oddly enough, there were absolutely no similarities between these accounts.About a week ago, a Tweet I was mentioned in received a dozen or so “likes” over a very short time period (about two minutes).I happened to be on my computer at the time, and quickly took a look at the accounts that generated those likes. Here’s an example of one of the accounts’ profiles: My colleague, Sean, checked a few of the links and found that they landed on “adult dating” sites.Checking further, I noticed that some of the accounts either followed, or were being followed by other accounts with similar traits, so I decided to write a script to programmatically “crawl” this network, in order to see how large it is. It was seeded with the dozen or so accounts that I originally witnessed, and was designed to iterate friends and followers for each user, looking for other accounts displaying similar traits.Whenever a new account was discovered, it was added to the query list, and the process continued.
This network of accounts seems quite benign, but in theory, it could be quickly repurposed for other tasks including “Twitter marketing” (paid services to pad an account’s followers or engagement), or to amplify specific messages.