Twitter turns around after bestowing the company’s highest honor – a blue check mark – on very obvious bot accounts • The Register


Twitter checked a bunch of bot accounts, awarding them coveted blue checkmarks, then overturned the decision, admitting he had made a mistake.

The debacle has put the spotlight on the social network’s account verification system, normally reserved for qualified celebrities, politicians, sports stars, pundits, journalists and the like.

A tweeter passing by the pseudo Conspirador Norteño, which claims to fight online disinformation, found that none of the six accounts in question, created in June, had actually posted tweets and that, for all of them, their few thousand followers were largely the same accounts. Still, the sextet had been verified as supposedly genuine and notable people by Twitter when they were nothing else.

All of this points to a network of fake users who may stimulate particular issues or campaigns on Twitter using their special status.

“These six newly created verified accounts have 977 followers in common. One is @verified (which tracks all blue check verified accounts). The other 976 were all created on June 19 or 20, 2021, and all follow the same 190 accounts, “Norteño tweeted on Sunday.

“These 976 accounts are part of an astroturf botnet consisting of at least 1212 accounts.

“The network is divided into subscribers, which follow the aforementioned verified accounts as well as other botnet members, and subscribers, which are followed by other bots.”

To add to the mystery, this network of fake accounts used profile pictures apparently created by AI software: a generative contradictory network was probably behind at least some of the photos and illustrations of women and cats used as avatars. These unique images will not show up in reverse image searches in Google or TinEye, making them more believable. If the photos were stolen from people’s Instagram profiles, for example, it would be too obvious that they were fake.

All six verified accounts have been closed and the rest of the network does not appear to be fully active, with some members tweeting information on Korean websites. Norteño said one verified account self-terminated and the rest were taken down by the social network.

“We mistakenly approved verification requests for a small number of (fake) inauthentic accounts,” a Twitter spokesperson said. The register Monday. “We have now permanently suspended the accounts in question and removed their verified badges, as part of our platform manipulation and spam policy.”

Twitter also confirmed The Reg what some suspected: When you request a verified account, you enter a queue for your particular region, and each region queue is managed separately. So compared to others, some regions may be too fast, shall we say, to approve accounts in their queues, meaning some people get verified when they shouldn’t. The audited accounts in question all appeared to use the Turkish language, we note.

Alex Stamos, former Facebook security chief, earlier speculated Twitter “could have a malicious or corrupt insider,” adding that “something similar has happened” on Facebook-owned Instagram, in which spammers purchased verified badges for their accounts. ®

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