» How to tell a bot from a real person on Facebook

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11 September 2020
How to tell a bot from a real person on Facebook

For example some unknown lady starts to follow you on Facebook with a photo like this:

Or vice versa: under the post about a super-cool new something you find comments with the same text from different people.

But if you check the account of the pretty lady or monosyllabic commentators, you may find out that their Facebook feed is filled with reposts, information about the person himself is scarce, and there are very few personal photos.

With a probability of 99.9%, you are in front of Mr. and Mrs. Bot. But bots are different.

Is a bot a program?

And yes, and not always. Basically a bot is a program that registers accounts on the network. In this case, the bot can act according to the embedded algorithm, or it can be controlled by a person. The second option is called a fake account, but more often all of the above is called “bot”.

The main thing that you need to understand is that the bot is an imitation of a real user and is created for certain tasks.

Why bots?

Bots may have different targets. These can be rather innocent tasks such as boosting likes and subscribers. 

Also the bot can track your actions if you have a private profile and continue to serve you ads. Or it can be fraudulent: for example, you are a member of an environmental group and you receive a message about a fundraiser for recovery from forest fires. If you’ll donate, there’s no guarantee that the money will go to its intended purpose.

Knowing how to identify bots is necessary not only for the purity of your Facebook feed. For example, it is important for advertisers to understand the number of real subscribers in order to decide whether to buy ads from one person or choose somebody else.

It can also be important to understand the performance of your advertisers. For example you hired a person, set him the goals and then with his arrival the number of subscribers increased 10 times.

Cool? Sure! Only if subscribers are not your target audience or, in principle, bots, what’s the use of such growth if there will be no sales. An exception: you yourself wanted the subscribers to have prettier numbers.

And of course the ability to distinguish a bot from a real user will help filter information on the internet. Imagine that you started selling some super shatterproof glasses and then a bunch of dissatisfied people started to post negative reviews on your product. 

If you accept these reviews as true, you may start changing the product (which we know is ok) or even close the business. And if it turns out that the reviews are written by bots there’ll be no problem, you’ll just need to repel this bot-attack. But how to do it we will tell in a separate material.

How to identify a bot

Considering the speed with which network development is going on, bots are becoming more alike real users both in terms of behavior and filling

Photos. There may be just one pathetic photo or even none. Maybe there is something else in the album, but rather there will be pictures that were published at once. And also — you are unlikely to find a photo in which there will bot itself and other users from Facebook.

Lack of information in the profile. Such accounts can be categorized as primitive bots: only photos, lack of personal information inside the profile, news feed, at best, only reposts. 

But it’s also logical why there may be a lack of pictures: a real person can easily find out if his pics are used on the internet. An elementary search using Google and here’s the information where else your photos are placed.

But it is worth noting that such primitive bots appear either for very small tasks, or the bots was created by completely lazy farmers.

For example, to boost likes and increase the number of subscribers. For such purposes you don’t even have to buy accs, just download some free app and boost as much as you want. As a result you get your likes-subscribers for watching ads or something else.

Another story is when it comes to a ready-to-go bot. There will already be personal information in the profile, friend list and activities. 

At the same time, do not forget that there are real people who want to follow the agenda in the networks, while staying in the shade. Therefore, sometimes a real person can stand behind a completely empty profile. 

Friends. It looks suspicious if for example a russian account has friends from all over the World, and these “friends” have the same “couple of photos + reposts” in the profile as the russian acc.

Cosmopolitans exist, but still it looks more like a bot.

By the way, it is generally believed that farmers prefer to create accounts for women: the women attract more attention, which provides an influx of real subscribers. In particular, hindus and vietnamese.

Excessive activity. Reposts only on one topic and with inveterate activity are one of the most obvious signs of a bot. There are, of course, unique people who do not write anything themselves and fill their news feed only with reposts, but these are rather exceptions.

Huge amount of communities. Subscriptions to 1000+ communities with completely different topics. Such curiosity is commendable, but rather suspicious, especially when combined with an empty account.

It will also be suspicious if a person subscribes to communities of different cities which have too different topics: “cheap chairs in London”, “pans in Oxford”, “cute cats in Liverpool” and “anchors in Bristol.” 

Dialogue. Remembering the capabilities of modern chat bots, the bot may well communicate with you and even conduct a dialogue. However, asking a ridiculous question that has no semantic meaning may well dispel doubts.

If we are talking about an unfamiliar profile, you can ask an absurd question such as:  “Hey, what’s the capital l_ndon?”. 

If we are talking about a personal account and you think that the account was hacked, you can bump into memories and ask something like: “how’s Jimmy doing after that… blah blah.”

If there is a bot on the other side, he is unlikely to understand the puzzle.  If it is a farmer, doubtedly he will spend time on solving the mystery.

And of course, all questions will remove audio or video communication with the suspicious acc. 

How to reveal a bot quickly?

We have already written the criteria for manual selection above. If you need to check not 1-2 accounts, but the entire friend list then you will need to use a bit different techniques.

Write a script. Those with programming skills may well write a simple script to check their friend list or subscribers. In the script you need to lay down the criteria that are of interest. For example, put a filter on accounts with 500+ communities and no photo on the avatar. Then, manually check the accounts in the obtained results and decide what to do with them

Use a ready-made program. On the Internet you can find applications using which you can check your friend list. But here is the thing: either you need to look for trusted companies, or while you try to check your subscribers the program may be checking you. And there’s a risk that you may lose your own account.