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A Daily Beast investigation reveals manipulating Twitter is cheap. A review of dodgy marketing companies, botnet owners, and underground forums shows plenty of people are willing to sell the various components needed to run your own political Twitter army for just a few hundred dollars, or sometimes less.
And once your botnet is caught, due to holes in Twitter’s security and sign-up features, it takes only a few minutes to do it all over again.“It requires very little computing power to fire this stuff out,” Maxim Goncharov, a senior threat researcher at cybersecurity firm Trend Micro who has studied the trade of social media bots, told The Daily Beast.
To test the service, The Daily Beast bought 1,000 accounts with the pseudo-anonymous digital currency bitcoin.
The Russian accounts are as plain as can be: no avatars, no tweets, and no followers, and date from July and August of this year.
Making accounts in some sort of automated fashion, by using a script to quickly churn through Twitter’s sign up process, may trigger the social network’s fraud alarms and block the accounts, meaning at least some of the process is likely to be manual.“All accounts we have are created with bots or manually.Do you really know if that pro-Trump meme or far-right tweet is from a real person, or just an unmanned string of code that was purchased for pennies?