Wait, that was my tweet! Tweet theft as fake user and bot obfuscation

Tweet theft is nothing new. The typical scenario on tweet theft is when someone tweets a witty comment or insight when the actual source is intentionally uncredited. There are shades of variation on referencing a source on tweet but lack of skills aside, it’s not hard for the reader to determine if the tweeter is taking the content as their own or giving credit where credit is due. Plagiarism is alive and well in social media and all media. But, I’ve seen something interesting lately around the purpose of the co-opting of my tweets that’s an interesting pattern to track.

I’m no celebrity of any kind, so there is really no reason to rip off what I write or reference on Twitter and take it as your own. I do run my own URL shortener (http://mer.gy) and I’m the only one that generate the short urls. People often reference, quote, retweet, and even modify my tweets as per the usual activity on Twitter. New links posted in tweets get an immediate influx from various bots (around 20-30 usually) cataloging and exploring any new URL posted on the social network. I’ve seen over the last few years that the initial influx of traffic on a new link posted to Twitter (without any human really even clicking on the link in the tweet) typically max-out at around 30 connections or so, then subside after 10-15 minutes. But recently, I’ve noticed an uptick in activity on older tweets/links of mine and I wanted to know why. 

Here are some recent examples of verbatim duplicates of some past tweets without any reference to the source creator of the original tweet.

tweet theft 1

tweet theft 2Looking at the Twitter handles, you can see these are bot-generated users. These are garbage users. They have real names assigned to the accounts, but the user handles are clearly junk and usually not even connected to the bots name. Here are a few more:

tweet theft 3

tweet theft 4

There are many, many more examples. Not only do all these examples have bogus handles, but they also have very minimal followers and are probably centrally managed and used as bots. The only explanation on this sort of activity has to be to an attempt by the various Twitter spam and user herders to obfuscate that these accounts are real people. I’m sure my tweets are just randomly selected and sucked-up by the bot system to be regurgitated out as real posts from the accounts these fakers want to try and pass as genuine on the social network.

Please comment if you have seen this happen to you. The only way I could even notice it was that I run my own URL shortener and could see odd activity. This has to be a pretty rampant tactic to try and herd and sanitize accounts, but I still can see it being all that effective.

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