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Definition

Twitterbot

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

A Twitterbot (sometimes spelled "Twitter bot") is a software program that sends out automated  posts on Twitter. 

Most Twitterbots work simply, sending out tweets periodically or responding to instances of specific phrases in user messages. More sophisticated Twitterbots perform various tasks, such as mining and analyzing tweets in real time. Socialbots, for example, incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) and sophisticated linguistic software to convincingly replicate human interaction. 

Many Twitterbots are specialized for various purposes. Depending on what the particular purpose is, Twitterbots can be useful, informative, annoying or dangerous -- just like human tweeters. There are spambots, pornbots and bots designed to promote products, brands and political candidates -- among a great number of other possibilities. According to Ian Urbina, writing in The New York Times, on average, only 35 percent of the followers of any Twitter account are actual people. Presumably, the remaining 65 percent are Twitterbots.

Here's a sampling of Twitterbots:

  • @NiemanLabFuego finds and retweets the stories that most journalists are discussing.
  • @trackthis tracks parcels for followers and sends them direct messages each time a package's location changes.
  • @EarthquakesSF tweets about earthquakes in the San Francisco area in real time, using seismographic information from the USGS.
  • @Betelgeuse_3 responds to tweets that include the phrase "beetlejuice, beetlejuice, beetlejuice" with replies in keeping with the eponymous character from that movie.
  • @yesyoureracist and @yesyouresexist seek and autorespond to racist/sexist tweets.
  • @stealthmountain seeks instances of "sneak peak" and responds with a correction: I think you mean "sneak peek."
  • @anagramaton finds tweets that are anagrams of each other, using the same letters combined to make different phrases.

 

This was last updated in September 2013

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