Twitter India has announced that it is rolling out bot badges on its platform. While the feature has been in testing globally since September 2021, this is the first time that the company has extended its bot-marking feature to accounts in India. Twitter says that the feature will help users identify ‘good’ bots, or accounts that post legitimate information without human intervention.
This is not the first time that Twitter has made a move to identify bot accounts on its platform – something that has posed problems for the company. In India, for instance, trends on Twitter in the lead-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections were manipulated by bots, according to a report by Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. Such acts were flagged in the spread of misinformation at the onset of the covid-19 pandemic as well.
During a 2018 US Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, erstwhile Twitter chief Jack Dorsey had stated that the company was considering ways to differentiate bots from human accounts, but had also stated that it could be difficult to segregate human accounts from sophisticated bots, which use machine learning to generate tweets that sound natural.
To this end, Twitter says that its move to mark the ‘good’ bots could be of some help. A statement by the company says, “Research found that people wanted more context around the accounts they interact with. This label will help give ‘good bots’, i.e. those that share helpful or relevant information, and intend to genuinely improve the Twitter experience, a way to increase their legitimacy and build trust and transparency with their audience.”
Twitter already offers an account verification feature, where it allows any individual to apply for verifying themselves as an authentic account in various sectors. The individual could be a voice of authority in specific fields where Twitter offers account verification at the moment – such as government officials, journalists and publications, companies, entertainment personalities, activists, content creators and sportspersons.
In August 2020, Twitter introduced labels to identify accounts affiliated with national governments, and in February 2021, further expanded the feature to include government operated media outlets.
While the new bot identifier has been launched now, Twitter states that adding the bot icon will be optional for accounts. As a result, the feature does not clearly denote bots that could be sharing unverified information on the platform.