Twitter Says 23 Million Users Are Not Real Humans, Just Bots

In a filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Twitter disclosed that around 23 million of its monthly active users are actually bots, or programs that automatically post updates "without any discernible additional user-initiated action." That works out to about 8.5 percent of of the microblogging service's total monthly active users.

This is an important metric for advertisers to consider because those automated programs aren't going to generate any sales from ads. They do, however, serve different purposes -- some are nefarious, such as spamming nonsense that nobody cares to read, while others can be useful, such as websites automatically posting interesting content for its followers.

Image Source: Flickr (Howard Lake)

Another metric that advertisers should consider is the total number of Twitter users that use third-party applications. That includes bots as well as people who use programs like Tweetdeck. Of Twitter's 271 million monthly active users, 30 million, or 11 percent, receive tweets through third party programs. What that essentially boils down to is 1 out of 10 Twitter users being immune to the site's ads.

In addition to all this, Twitter estimates that fake or spam accounts comprise less than 5 percent of its monthly active users, though that could be a conservative figure.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons (Jonathan McIntosh)

"This estimate is based on an internal review of a sample of accounts and we apply significant judgment in making this determination. As such, our estimation of false or spam accounts may not accurately represent the actual number of such accounts, and the actual number of false or spam accounts could be higher than we have currently estimated," Twitter said.

Don't be surprised if Twitter rolls out changes in the future to combat this sort of thing. Advertising is critical to the success of Twitter's future, and if a significant number of users are receiving data from automated feeds, are fake accounts, or are bots that post without any user interaction with the site, then it devalues what the social network has to offer to paid advertisers.