Nearly 23 million Twitter users are not human, but bots

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Twitter caused a stir recently when it admitted that many active users are not human – but “bots” sending out automated tweets.

Now there is hard data to go with that claim, reports Zachary Seward of Quartz.

Twitter representatives announced that “up to approximately 8.5%” of active accounts are automatically updated “without any discernible additional user-initiated action.”

That translates to about 23 million of 271 million monthly active Twitter users (MAUs) as of the end of June.

An earlier statement from the company said that 14 percent of MAUs access Twitter from beyond the official website and mobile apps, using Twitter’s API. The latest estimates clarify that statement by adding that the 14 percent figure includes “certain users who accessed Twitter through owned and operated applications.”

The two programs most likely in play are TweetDeck and Twitter for Mac,  favored by many power Twitter users, but technical issues prevent them from being counted in official statistics.

Only 11 percent of MAUs accessed Twitter from applications not owned by the company, such as Tweetbot or Flipboard.

These updated figures allow Seward some other calculations:

  • 8 million (3 percent) of Twitter’s MAUs use either TweetDeck or Twitter for Mac
  • 7 million (2.5 percent) of Twitter’s MAUs use a third-party client
  • 23 million (8.5 percent) of Twitter’s MAUs are automated bots

Bots are not automatically spammed accounts, which Twitter estimates are less than 5 percent of MAUs. Bots are useful and can be an essential tool for Twitter users.

Twitter’s issue with bots is that once set up, they rarely have human interaction, an important factor for advertisers looking to reach potential customers.

If bots are a concern to advertisers, they should also concern Twitter and its shareholders.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.