Why is it so hard to distinguish pornographic spam from Chinese state bots

But this spam content may have nothing to do with the Chinese government, based on a report published Monday by the Stanford Internet Observatory. The report’s author David Thiel wrote: “Although spam has engulfed legitimate protest-related content, there is no evidence that it was designed to do so, nor was it not. is a deliberate effort by the Chinese government.”

Instead, they may just be the usual commercial spam bots that have plagued Twitter forever. These specific accounts exist to attract the attention of Chinese users accessing foreign networks to access pornography.

Candlestick “significant increase” in spam just a coincidence? The short answer is: most likely. There are two main reasons why Thiel doesn’t think the bots are related to the Chinese government.

Firstly, these accounts have been spamming for a long time. And they send out even more tweets, and more consistently, before Protests broke out, according to an analysis of data on the activity of more than 600,000 accounts between 15 and 29 November. Another analysis found that they also continued to push out spam even as the The discussion of the protests has ended.

Take a look at these two charts (for reference, the rallies peaked around November 27):

The line graph shows the consistent spam tweets between November 15 and November 29. Above the chart, this is a breakdown of a total of 7,541,382 tweets.
A line chart showing the increasing spammy tweets between November 29 and December 4. Above the chart is a breakdown of 6,088,596 tweets total.

So it did it just feel as if spam activity spiked during the protests? This chart shows that in fact many bot accounts were created in November:

A bar chart shows that far more spam accounts were created in November than accounts created in previous months.

But Thiel stresses that content moderation takes time. People tend to overlook an effect known as “survival bias”: older spam accounts and content are repeatedly removed from the platform, but the researchers have no data on suspended accounts. stop. So a chart like this shows only accounts survive Twitter spam filter. That’s why the November spike seems so big: they’re the most recently created new accounts to replace their dead old accounts and still stand—but not all of them. will exist, so they won’t be there if we revisit this chart in, say, a few months. In other words, if you conduct data analysis right after the rallies, it will certainly look that This type of spam has only recently started. But it’s not necessarily the full truth.

Second, if the spam accounts are meant to hide information about the protests, they have done very poorly. While the escort ad spam featured many Chinese city names as keywords and hashtags, Thiel found that they weren’t targeting the hashtags actually used for discussions about protests, like #A4Revolution or #ChinaProtest2022, “that’s what you think the government would be interested in jumping in if they were trying to silence things,” he told me. Of the roughly 30,000 tweets he analyzed that contained these more influential hashtags, “there was no spam to speak of.”

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