Legions of fake Twitter accounts, called bots, roam the virtual social media landscape, often wreaking havoc wherever they go. You’ve probably encountered these accounts, those so-called eggheads, in Twitter’s untamed wilderness. They seem drawn to political conversations, but are often used to artificially inflate the number of followers a profile has, send spam and manipulate online sentiment. Herded by shadowy “botmasters,” these accounts can be financially lucrative, especially after they’ve been around for a few years.
Two researchers from University College London claim to have discovered an army of 350,000 such bots hiding in plain sight, distinguished by their affinity for tweeting quotes from Star Wars novels. And, like Aragorn bursting into the throne room at Helm’s Deep to deliver the news of an encroaching orc army, they have come to warn us.