How to Spot a Bot on Social Media

“How can you tell a bot from a human?” — this question is quite acute because there are more and more bots every day. 

For instance, Telegram is filled with various bots for data searching.

Bots, or robots, are special programs that pose as real people on forums, social networks, and messengers. Such programs can sometimes be useful, but they more often bring inconvenience and harm. So do not confuse them with really “useful” bots, for example, search bots that “walk” through sites to search for the information we need and improve the search quality.

Bots can be found absolutely everywhere. They have become especially widespread in social networks and messengers.

They are really dangerous for children. Read the guide to know how to protect them. 

But very often, bots annoy with their behavior and outright spam. Therefore, it is very important to know how to spot a bot.

How to tell a bot from a human

Bots are specialized programs that manage accounts on social networks imitating the actions of real users: they subscribe to other accounts, put likes, make reposts, and even comment on posts.

What is a bot

There are good and bad bots. Good bots are those that bring real benefits. For example, they can automatically perform actions for a person: send letters, prepare reports, download pictures, and music, etc.

Bad bots are those that are invented to deceive a person. As a rule, they are created by scammers for profit.

In this article, we will not touch on good bots. We are only interested in the bad ones.

It is possible to distinguish a bot from a human, but how to do this will depend on where you are trying to identify the robot. For example, there will be certain ways for a social network and others for chats.

So, let’s figure it out and adopt the necessary tools.

If you are searching for the best messengers without bad bots, you can find them here.

How to tell a bot from a person in messenger chats

If the bot in the chat has not identified itself as a bot, it has some purpose of its own. Usually, this is the collection of information about someone to pass it on or advertise something. Therefore, such “hidden” bots are distinguished from living people primarily by the desire to learn as much personal information about you as possible. To prevent this from happening, you need to remember several properties inherent in bots:

  • Not aware of recent events. Most often, bots are not up to date with the latest news events. And this means that you can turn your communication to discuss the latest news and observe how your interlocutor behaves.
  • Bad humor. Usually, bots don’t shine with humor. It is present but in a very primitive state, so the robot is not able to recognize a joke in the context of your message. Moreover, the bot is not able to recognize sarcasm, so it will take you literally. Try to apply this technique and track the reaction of your interlocutor.
  • Challenged by spelling mistakes. Errors and typos (preferably several in one word) can confuse the bot because it will not be ready for this. At the same time, a living person can recognize such a text without problems. Try this technique too.
  • Difficulty with abbreviated words. This involves the same “recognition difficulties” as typos. If you use abbreviations of words in your dialog, there is a high probability that the bot will not understand them. In addition to shortening words, apply sentence shortening as well. It is difficult for the bot to recognize the context of the message, so it will be easier for you to understand who (or what) is on the other side of the screen.

In general, bots are easily recognized in messenger chats. This often happens intuitively because the bot behaves somehow unnaturally, in a way that does not befit a living person. 

In any case, you should always be on your guard and not give any personal information in chats that could compromise you. For example, if you are having a business conversation about sales or purchases, then the best way to find out who you are corresponding with is to bring the dialogue to a “voice” conversation. If your interlocutor refuses to talk on the phone for some reason, then this is the first sign that something is wrong.

How to tell a bot from a person in social networks and forums

There are obvious bots in social networks and forums, which do not need to be distinguished — they are engaged in outright spam and sending unacceptable information. But there are accounts that at first glance resemble the accounts of living people, and with these it is more complicated. However, they can be recognized as well. Therefore, it is essential to know what properties can distinguish a bot from a living person in social networks or forums.

The current structure of bots in social networks is an art unto itself because you need to “clone” a living person without arousing suspicion. To do this, criminals do the following:

  1. 1. They find a certain account in a social network that fits the desired parameters.
  2. 2. They copy all the account’s information: avatar, photo albums, basic information, videos, music.
  3. 3. They fill out their fake account, sometimes in the same social network, sometimes in another one.
  4. 4. Finally, they add a few friends, leave a few posts, make a few likes, and repost. And it’s ready!

Such account preparation takes no more than an hour of time, while it turns out a full and slightly active account. 

How to tell a bot from a human

But our task is to distinguish the bot account from the account of a living person. To do this, you need to do the following actions:

  • Monitor the activity of a suspicious account. The bot account promotes, likes, and shares the same site, portal, or post. Everything is clear, especially if this resource is from “unpopular” topics: adult websites, online casinos, credit organizations, political resources, etc.
  • Check out the friends of this account. For an ordinary person, having too many friends is a suspicious fact. However, this is not the case with popular people: musicians, bloggers, businessmen, politicians, etc. It is normal for such people to have a lot of friends online.
  • Look at the account avatar. If there are no people in the photo, then there is a chance that it is a bot. But the most important thing is to look at the date of their addition: if there are several dozen photos in the account (even one person!), but they were added in one day, then this also increases the chances of having a bot in front of you.
  • Write to the “personal account.” This is a typical check for “activity.” If they do not answer, then there is a chance that you are looking at a bot.
  • Look at the ratings, comments, and who shared the account’s posts. If it is some of the same people each time, then there is a chance that you are looking at a bot. It would worthwhile to look at the profile of the “commenters” – do they look like living friends of our alleged bot? Is there a dialogue in the comments between the account owner and the commenters?

Any suspicious actions or things in the verified account should alert you. But even here, everything can be the same even with a real person’s account. For example, it may happen that the account of a real living person has been hacked, and spam is being sent from it. Or it is an account of a living person, but its owner does not like to show off their photos and only periodically shares links from their favorite site.

This is all to the point that any analysis should be thorough. And it’s better to be cautious: if you are not a public person, then add only those people to friends that you know personally or that your friends know, and simply do not react to any questionable accounts.

Protect yourself in social networks. Your personal guide is here.

Conclusion: How to spot a bot

Creating a bot is an art, but distinguishing a bot from a human is also an art, and it’s good that you already know how to do it. In any case, you need to adopt a simple approach:

  • Never conduct personal dialogues with people you don’t know.
  • If there is even the slightest suspicion of the authenticity of an account in a social network or on a forum, then bypass it.

Always remember that your information security is only in your hands. You always pass your own information to the attackers, by your own hands or actions. And the attackers are coming up with newer and better ways to get you to do it.

Be aware of any threats connected with hackers.


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