Ever since Elon Musk took over Twitter, spam bots gradually ran more and more rampant. The problem is taking its toll on users.
When Elon Musk took over Twitter in 2022, one of his big bold claims was that he was going to take care of the spam bot problems. At the time, Twitter was, indeed, grappling with problems of bot farms. These bot farms were typically pushing right wing ideology, gaming the algorithm system, and trying to force far right ideology on users among other things.
For many users, the moment that Musk took over signalled that the problems were actually destined to get worse, not better. By all accounts, those users were, in fact, correct. A year ago, Musk would go on to take a wrecking ball to moderation teams, shredding any semblance of health and safety, and famously pulling equipment out of server rooms without a clue of what that equipment does. Performance gradually became more sluggish as users saw critical parts of the platform kick up more and more error messages and pages started to fail to load. Some openly joked that Musk was chewing through the wires every time something stopped working.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that not all bot activity is bad. For instance, some services are set up to allow the sharing of news links on Twitter. This allows users to have better access to news articles. Jetpack famously once offered such a service for news sites and blogs alike. That all came to an end when Musk arbitrarily decided to kill third party API access. Countless sites posting legitimate content got hit including ours. This lead to us announcing the ending of automated sharing of news links on the platform.
What’s more, censorship soared on Twitter under Musk’s reign. After saying that Musk had hoped that even his biggest rivals would stay on Twitter, Musk began attacking and banning political rivals. Some received permanent bans while others got shadow banned. News organizations were suddenly slapped with “state funded” warning labels without warning. Things have even gotten so bad, that even perceived allies of Musk found themselves getting burned by Musk’s shenanigans. The situation has long ago spiralled out of control on the platform.
Yet, while huge amounts of legitimate content were getting squeezed out of the platform, illegitimate content was taking its place in the form of spam bots. Users were already leaving the platform in droves because of the sharp rise in censorship and the algorithms pushing extreme right wing ideology onto them, but another factor was the spam bots as well.
One thing we’ve witnessed is that whenever we, as an active user, published a post on Twitter, we would get inundated by porn spam bots with fake “likes”. We’ve seen spam crop up, but nowhere near to this level before. The fake likes are spread across multiple tweets in the timeline. Posts that were published by as far as a year ago were suddenly getting likes from these spam bots. While the problem is virtually invisible to third parties viewing timelines like ours, our notifications ended up getting flooded with these bots. In fact, it’s why our posting has become more minimal these days. Less activity and inconsistent posts seems to dissuade such bots.
Of course, it isn’t just porn spam bots that have largely taken over Twitter. Scam bots and other forms of fraud have also partly taken over Twitter as well. Some of the things we’ve seen are air drop scams and a notable increase in crypto scams. As Mike Masnick notes, we are far from the only ones noticing this:
Originally, Elon seemed to think that changing Twitter’s verification system into a subscription service would get rid of the bots. That did not work. More recently, he’s shifted into making anyone who wants to post anything to Twitter to have to pay a nominal amount as his solution.
All of this assumes, incorrectly, that it’s not worth it for scammers and spammers to pay tiny bits to flood Elon’s playground with shit.
And flood it, they are.
A report from Bleeping Computer notes that ExTwitter has become completely overwhelmed with crypto scam ads, and most of them are coming from accounts paying Elon his cut. And even Elon’s biggest supporters are getting sick of it.
And it seems clear that it’s worth it to scammers to pay $8/month for access to the absolute gullible fucks on ExTwitter. As Bleeping Computer highlighted last month, one of these crypto drainer scams that has been regularly advertising on ExTwitter was able to steal $59 million from suckers on ExTwitter via purchased ads:
On X, better known as Twitter, advertisements for MS Drainer are so abundant that ScamSniffer reports they account for six out of nine phishing ads on their feed.
Notably, many of the scam ads on X are posted from legitimate “verified” accounts that carried the blue tick badge when the ad was shown.
So, ultimately, the fraudulent activity has not only been flying under the radar, but the scammers are bold enough to be purchasing ads to push through their scams as well. It’s unlikely that there is any kind of vetting of these ads, just pay Musk his ad money and any scam will fly.
There’s probably a good reason why Musk is taking any kind of advertising dollar these days. After all, it is well known that Musk has driven off much of the advertising from well known established brands for a long time now. Advertising dollars have been drying up quickly as neo-nazi propaganda floods the platform. Advertisers, understandably, are not exactly thrilled with the idea of their advertisements funding such garbage. So, to try and make up the shortcomings, if millions get lifted off of his supporters to help keep his platform afloat, Musk is perfectly willing to let these scam ads fly. After all, like so many other right wingers in power, it’s all about themselves instead of anyone else, so, who cares?
It’s probably little wonder why so many users have flocked to the likes of Mastodon and Blue Sky in the first place. It becomes a question of how long do you let Musk punish you before you finally have had enough and leave. Indeed, other platforms are much more attractive just based on the avoidance of the hate pushing algorithm on Twitter in the first place. The lack of spam and moderation is simply added gravy for why users should be leaving Twitter. Really, it’s kind of amazing that high ranking politicians continue to use the platform in the first place despite it all.
Either way, Musk is continuing to burn the entire platform down to the ground. Users are leaving and bot activity is largely replacing that user engagement that was lost. This especially as Twitter continues to resemble the right wing echo chamber that caused so many other right wing echo chambers to collapse in the past. No one has ever said that the collapse of Twitter was going to happen over night, but at the very least, Musk is testing to see how quickly a web giant can be demolished by pure incompetence.