Politweet.Org

Observing Malaysian Social Media

The Role of Clones in #Merdeka55

We have run multiple censuses on politician’s followers since December 2011, and over time developed some basic categories to distinguish followers:

  • Active – shown signs of Twitter use in the last 1-2 months, has followers and/or tweeted
  • Observer – user with 0 tweets and 0 followers
  • Inactive – no change in statistics in the last 1-2 months (besides followers)
  • Suspended – account currently suspended by Twitter

We are going to add a new category called Clones, which will draw users from Active and Inactive categories. This will be for users found to be run by the same person or group of persons.

What are Clones?

When you create/manage multiple accounts on Twitter with intent to tweet the same type of content some/all of the time, we will call those clones. Not all clones are bad. There are good reasons to have multiple accounts:

  • For marketing purposes, you can post tweets targeted at different markets
  • For work, multiple accounts representing different departments/franchises/organisations
  • You can have one account for personal use, and one for professional use
  • You can use each account to tweet about different topics, and socialise with the different groups for each topic

As long as the number of accounts is kept small and tweeting frequency kept low, Twitter doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. It doesn’t change the fact that only one person is managing these accounts.

When multiple accounts are used to send the same tweet, they are in danger of being suspended or deleted. This is because such behaviour is a violation of Twitter’s Terms of Service (TOS):

You may not do any of the following while accessing or using the Services:  (v) interfere with, or disrupt, (or attempt to do so), the access of any user, host or network, including, without limitation, sending a virus, overloading, flooding, spamming, mail-bombing the Services, or by scripting the creation of Content in such a manner as to interfere with or create an undue burden on the Services.

Clones pose a problem when doing Twitter analytics because:

  • They inflate the @mention levels for an account
  • They artificially increase the follower count for other users
  • They affect sentiment analysis, because one person tweeting an opinion to 10 accounts gives the illusion of 10 users sharing the same opinion

Regular Twitter users call these ‘fake followers’. So there is a need to filter these accounts out to get a truer sense of how many people follow politicians.

Bad Clones (Bots)

Some people register multiple Twitter accounts with some/all of the following characteristics:

  • Pretending to be another person, or fake organisation
  • Scheduled or automated mass-tweeting
  • Following the same user
  • Similar follower/following relationships

These clones are bots. They are not real people. They do not socialise, except with other bots or their creator(s). They have automated behaviour. They were created to serve an agenda. Their creators maintain a real persona online and make use of the bots when needed.

Their effect is to increase follower counts and raise @mention levels. Bots may be terminated by Twitter if they start spamming, so many lie dormant. We will treat bots as a subset of clones. Our bot-detection methods will not be shared publicly, to avoid having the bots change tactics.

Catching the #Merdeka55 Clones

During the #Merdeka55 event, we noticed large blocks of identical tweets being sent at the same time. Further investigation into who sent the tweets revealed that many of these users had a lot in common:

  • Tweeted using Tweetdeck
  • Sending scheduled/automated tweets containing #Merdeka55 and @NajibRazak in sync with other bots
  • Fake-looking profile (based on personal details)
  • Similar follower/following relationships

The pattern seemed to be one real person having as many as several dozen more Twitter accounts. The person may have ‘tweet to all’ or scheduled the tweets. Such tweets were sent from 31st August – 1st September, primarily during 8.15 PM – 9.15 PM on 31st August. One possibility is also real users giving their login details to a 3rd party for use during #Merdeka55.

Some samples of bot account profile images are below. The bot account names are listed at the end of this post. Suspected non-bot user(s) that we have identified have been removed from the mosaic, though it is possible we missed some. It doesn’t change the fact that they are all clones, and each tweet was only tweeted by clones. See what they have in common.

Example 1

Tweet: #Merdeka55 Rukun Negara 5 Kesopanan dan Kesusilaan @NajibRazak @relamalaysia

Sent: 8:17:16 PM

Total users:  78

Bots: 77

Example 2

Tweet: #Merdeka55 Rakyat Malaysia, berikrar kepada @NajibRazak untuk menumpukan seluruh tenaga dan usaha kami untuk mempertahankan Rukun Negara

Sent: 8:32:07 PM

Total users:  75

Bots: 73

Example 3

Tweet: Terapkan semangat kemerdekaan yg ke 55 DS@NAJIB RAZAK #MERDEKA55 #JANJI DITERPATI

Sent: 8:44:52 PM by 20 users, 8:44:53 by 20 users (2 batches)

Total users: 40

Bots: 38

Example 4

Tweet: Variations of ‘mee curry’:

  • Eating mee curry in Queensbay at the foodcourt and “Keranamu Malaysia” song being played. So #Merdeka55 mood! 🙂 @NajibRazak
  • . Eating mee curry in Queensbay at the foodcourt and “Keranamu Malaysia” song being played. So #Merdeka55 mood! 🙂 @NajibRazak
  • eating mee curry at qeensbay mall foodcourt with ‘keranamu malaysia’ so in mood #merdeka55 @najibrazak @HishammuddinH2O

Sent: Multiple batches at 8.19 PM, 8.28 PM, 8.29 PM, 8.36 PM, 8.46 PM, 8.52 PM

Total users: 111

Bots: 96

At the time of this writing, over 2500 clones have been identified. These wrote 33,112 #Merdeka55 tweets, at an average of 11 users per tweet at the same second. This covers 30.29% of the 109,320 #Merdeka55 tweets we obtained.

There are many more clones waiting to be discovered. Over time we will develop better algorithms to detect and filter them. The examples we gave are but a small sample – once all the #Merdeka55 Tweetdeck users are laid out in a mosaic sorted by creation date, the patterns become very clear.

The image above is just a portion of the 720 X 9043 pixel mosaic. Click on the image to see the full-sized version on Flickr. There are 2,729 users in the full-sized image.

Some of the users are real people with ordinary Twitter accounts, and some are clones. From February 2012 onwards, you will find repeated profile images along a theme – Caucasian babies, Ultraman, cats, flowers, cars, football players and more, all created in sequence. These are the likely clones.

During the #Merdeka55 event, Twitter Search was very good at filtering out these clones. People searching for ‘#Merdeka55’ on Twitter’s website did not see 80.63% of the 33,112 tweets coming from the clones. Some of the users that we found have already been suspended for their behaviour, which violated Twitter’s TOS.

It is not known who created these accounts and why, but their existence has further implications for Malaysian politics online. This will be discussed in another blog post.

More facts about #Merdeka55

During the weekend we went through the data and found this tweet by @KhairyKJ:

During the Olympics, the highest tweets-per-minute was 80K, when Usain Bolt won the gold in the 200m sprint. The 100K tweets-per-minute mentioned by @KhairyKJ would be a new record that has yet to be announced by Twitter.

Politweet has been tracking global, Malaysian and Kuala Lumpur trends since April. As of this date, #Merdeka55 did not trend worldwide. That is unexpected, considering that Twitter trends favour new words/hashtags/phrases that are tweeted in a high volume in a short amount of time. One exception is when a trend had already trended worldwide recently, in which case it has to beat the previous record to trend again.

But #Merdeka55 never trended. It’s possible that the presence of bot spamming reduced the odds of trending. This makes sense because Twitter would have built-in safeguards to prevent manipulation of their trends. No Merdeka-related phrase trended worldwide either.

#Merdeka55 Trend Rank Changes in Malaysia, 8.00 PM – 9.30 PM

8.00 PM: 5th place

8.20 PM: 3rd place

8.50 PM: 5th place (lost 3rd place to #RY13)

9.00 PM: 8th place (lost 7th place to Taylor Swift. #RY13 still holding 3rd place)

9.10 PM: regained 3rd place and held it until 10.30 PM when it dropped to 10th place

In Malaysia, #Merdeka55 reached a peak rank of 3rd place at 8.20 PM.  The cumulative total trend time for #Merdeka55 was 740 minutes (12 hours 20 mins), tied with ‘2012 MTV Video Music Awards’.  Definitely in terms of tweet volume some record was achieved.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that bots contributed to the announced 3.6 million tweet total, and we won’t know how many tweets were sent by real people or what the real tweets-per-minute record is. Had bots not interfered, #Merdeka55 might have trended worldwide.

While there are no organiser rules stating that clone/bot usage are not allowed, using clones to flood Twitter with #Merdeka55 tweets is a violation of Twitter’s TOS. Violating Twitter’s rules to achieve a record on Twitter was an unethical act by the person(s) managing these accounts.

Hopefully Twitter or some 3rd party can come forward and verify the record claim.

Appendix

The following is a list of usernames from the examples.  Visit some of them and see the evidence in their timelines before any cover-up takes place.

List of users from Example 1

Tweet: #Merdeka55 Rukun Negara 5 Kesopanan dan Kesusilaan @NajibRazak @relamalaysia

http://www.twitter.com/limchialoong
http://www.twitter.com/ganchuankhai
http://www.twitter.com/gohkimheng
http://www.twitter.com/tanengteng
http://www.twitter.com/ganteckhock1
http://www.twitter.com/limjiajiunn
http://www.twitter.com/ngsengser
http://www.twitter.com/howchoonguan
http://www.twitter.com/lerleongtaen
http://www.twitter.com/limchingai
http://www.twitter.com/tee_hua
http://www.twitter.com/seekianhwa
http://www.twitter.com/howchonheyong
http://www.twitter.com/ngkahsin
http://www.twitter.com/ariffinar
http://www.twitter.com/tkangchian
http://www.twitter.com/leekamchot
http://www.twitter.com/limpohleng
http://www.twitter.com/suzi_yana
http://www.twitter.com/ching_joo
http://www.twitter.com/lau_lai
http://www.twitter.com/koo_chuan
http://www.twitter.com/m_amsyar
http://www.twitter.com/suria_mustaffar
http://www.twitter.com/wang_tan
http://www.twitter.com/tanboongee1
http://www.twitter.com/seejunhong
http://www.twitter.com/howleepoh
http://www.twitter.com/howchoonhwa
http://www.twitter.com/lyehengfook
http://www.twitter.com/elias_hadi
http://www.twitter.com/az_haari
http://www.twitter.com/ahmad_arifa
http://www.twitter.com/aim765
http://www.twitter.com/azhar_mehat
http://www.twitter.com/arbaan1
http://www.twitter.com/arezhazaril05
http://www.twitter.com/ziatul2
http://www.twitter.com/azaharnin
http://www.twitter.com/ananthanraman
http://www.twitter.com/alya_sa1
http://www.twitter.com/anuarsalikan
http://www.twitter.com/arivinthan
http://www.twitter.com/a_mir2
http://www.twitter.com/arumugam1502
http://www.twitter.com/an_tony816
http://www.twitter.com/zakiah449
http://www.twitter.com/mageswarym
http://www.twitter.com/nmaswan
http://www.twitter.com/ramleeo
http://www.twitter.com/azuhamohd
http://www.twitter.com/varnaras
http://www.twitter.com/ai_me1
http://www.twitter.com/ari_dah1
http://www.twitter.com/ali_bonel
http://www.twitter.com/abd_wahid1
http://www.twitter.com/affalilah
http://www.twitter.com/azeantikamin
http://www.twitter.com/wati524
http://www.twitter.com/aarmarina
http://www.twitter.com/awai19
http://www.twitter.com/a_liza1
http://www.twitter.com/mah476
http://www.twitter.com/azizbuang
http://www.twitter.com/aelyfairus
http://www.twitter.com/amir_basran
http://www.twitter.com/a_mir3
http://www.twitter.com/arzura437
http://www.twitter.com/amran_dondan
http://www.twitter.com/aza_har1
http://www.twitter.com/anasar3
http://www.twitter.com/ameraatul
http://www.twitter.com/adib227
http://www.twitter.com/razak_1985
http://www.twitter.com/asnizam4
http://www.twitter.com/bkar782
http://www.twitter.com/adblatif986

List of users from Example 2

Tweet: #Merdeka55 Rakyat Malaysia, berikrar kepada @NajibRazak untuk menumpukan seluruh tenaga dan usaha kami untuk mempertahankan Rukun Negara

http://www.twitter.com/shiva_kumar89
http://www.twitter.com/mohdghaffari
http://www.twitter.com/ahmadhafifa
http://www.twitter.com/norhafizfalan
http://www.twitter.com/shahrul_nizam85
http://www.twitter.com/nurul_atiqah94
http://www.twitter.com/fakhrul_wan
http://www.twitter.com/mioralauddin
http://www.twitter.com/shuhadaredza
http://www.twitter.com/shah_iwan92
http://www.twitter.com/huzairizolkifli
http://www.twitter.com/saiful_idlan
http://www.twitter.com/shu_hada94
http://www.twitter.com/nursyahrizan
http://www.twitter.com/izzatarif93
http://www.twitter.com/faezatulakma
http://www.twitter.com/fad_dilla
http://www.twitter.com/hasnulhusaini95
http://www.twitter.com/norriduan_idrus
http://www.twitter.com/hazmie_hassan
http://www.twitter.com/muhd_hazril88
http://www.twitter.com/nadzrinpauzi
http://www.twitter.com/nor_suhada91
http://www.twitter.com/afif_syazwan93
http://www.twitter.com/noor_fatin92
http://www.twitter.com/siti_salwa90
http://www.twitter.com/nur_faiza92
http://www.twitter.com/myaa_sarahh
http://www.twitter.com/roslinada
http://www.twitter.com/zul_helmy94
http://www.twitter.com/surisgoyu
http://www.twitter.com/farrah_dilla89
http://www.twitter.com/kumaran_vindran
http://www.twitter.com/faris_mustafa94
http://www.twitter.com/faizalkarrem
http://www.twitter.com/nur_farahin92
http://www.twitter.com/hilmi_rusli
http://www.twitter.com/effendi92
http://www.twitter.com/khairul_azman86
http://www.twitter.com/shahira_shira92
http://www.twitter.com/mazuanmadzalan
http://www.twitter.com/azmi_anua
http://www.twitter.com/fuat_rani
http://www.twitter.com/zikri_shah
http://www.twitter.com/aisyah_mizi
http://www.twitter.com/helmirosdi
http://www.twitter.com/hamdan_mansul
http://www.twitter.com/zulkarnainsalim
http://www.twitter.com/alif_musa92
http://www.twitter.com/noor_fadhilah90
http://www.twitter.com/ahmad_kamal92
http://www.twitter.com/fizatulsabilla
http://www.twitter.com/nur_athirah90
http://www.twitter.com/nadiahmahyuddin
http://www.twitter.com/sally_salihah
http://www.twitter.com/iffah_effa
http://www.twitter.com/nur_syawalni86
http://www.twitter.com/farizatulmazlin
http://www.twitter.com/syahira_syazwan
http://www.twitter.com/hanny_nany
http://www.twitter.com/shirwinjoseph
http://www.twitter.com/shahrul_safwan
http://www.twitter.com/iqbal_zaini92
http://www.twitter.com/arif_sulaiman83
http://www.twitter.com/hasif_rani
http://www.twitter.com/mohd_waliuddin
http://www.twitter.com/ahmad_nazreen93
http://www.twitter.com/shahizul_azwan
http://www.twitter.com/borhan_zakaria
http://www.twitter.com/shamir_yusoff
http://www.twitter.com/fakhrullahpauzi
http://www.twitter.com/ikhwan_shawari
http://www.twitter.com/abdul_hadi89

List of users from Example 3

Tweet: Terapkan semangat kemerdekaan yg ke 55 DS@NAJIB RAZAK #MERDEKA55 #JANJI DITERPATI

http://www.twitter.com/puvankumarravin
http://www.twitter.com/keengoi
http://www.twitter.com/muthusinniah1
http://www.twitter.com/choonswee
http://www.twitter.com/suhaimisidek1
http://www.twitter.com/kengsoon68
http://www.twitter.com/ganesanalagan75
http://www.twitter.com/sweebeng
http://www.twitter.com/thirunavasum
http://www.twitter.com/yapthiamswis
http://www.twitter.com/jayakumarkarrup
http://www.twitter.com/tankiant
http://www.twitter.com/sunthervengu1
http://www.twitter.com/tunggaik
http://www.twitter.com/firdausbasiran1
http://www.twitter.com/ngoyensia1
http://www.twitter.com/lewchinheng
http://www.twitter.com/sahar_jaafar
http://www.twitter.com/subramaniampuva
http://www.twitter.com/seahsweelee1
http://www.twitter.com/leemengchang
http://www.twitter.com/limbengtat
http://www.twitter.com/samsuddinkarim
http://www.twitter.com/limonesia
http://www.twitter.com/tajularifinomar
http://www.twitter.com/subarikamaludin
http://www.twitter.com/rosdijam
http://www.twitter.com/mohdraniramli
http://www.twitter.com/leechanhoe50
http://www.twitter.com/asmadyk
http://www.twitter.com/subbiansharif
http://www.twitter.com/gantian72
http://www.twitter.com/teesoon82
http://www.twitter.com/zulkiflisulor71
http://www.twitter.com/madasritembol
http://www.twitter.com/sazuanabsamad
http://www.twitter.com/zurina85475567
http://www.twitter.com/zmoham

List of users from Example 4

Tweet: Variations of ‘mee curry’

http://www.twitter.com/perdana_hitam1
http://www.twitter.com/jayanthimoorthi
http://www.twitter.com/annanthimoorthi
http://www.twitter.com/zainahibrahim1
http://www.twitter.com/aishahbee
http://www.twitter.com/diananordin12
http://www.twitter.com/revamoorthi
http://www.twitter.com/zazuliz
http://www.twitter.com/ching_keong
http://www.twitter.com/tan_chau
http://www.twitter.com/ong_kean
http://www.twitter.com/m_faizalb
http://www.twitter.com/kok_tam
http://www.twitter.com/k_jaio
http://www.twitter.com/chai_loh
http://www.twitter.com/chang_kimhuat
http://www.twitter.com/n_linggaml
http://www.twitter.com/ho_keeyeow
http://www.twitter.com/w_siew
http://www.twitter.com/cheesenglee
http://www.twitter.com/p_lachumanan
http://www.twitter.com/ong_liong24
http://www.twitter.com/tevarajan
http://www.twitter.com/pan_swee
http://www.twitter.com/eng_oh
http://www.twitter.com/lim_yeong
http://www.twitter.com/rubananthini
http://www.twitter.com/tan_chua
http://www.twitter.com/lim_kwee
http://www.twitter.com/fairul_khaizura
http://www.twitter.com/sadilah_mrathi
http://www.twitter.com/govindaraju133
http://www.twitter.com/vikneswaran51
http://www.twitter.com/sirtharan2
http://www.twitter.com/syafiqishak2
http://www.twitter.com/moorthimuniand1
http://www.twitter.com/ipseikkui
http://www.twitter.com/yeekonloong
http://www.twitter.com/looweihong
http://www.twitter.com/abdulfizal
http://www.twitter.com/lee_beng
http://www.twitter.com/zubaidahbuari
http://www.twitter.com/yanti_salleh
http://www.twitter.com/tia_gu1
http://www.twitter.com/matshamb
http://www.twitter.com/zirysam
http://www.twitter.com/faznass
http://www.twitter.com/mahheran
http://www.twitter.com/kilabadio
http://www.twitter.com/radziahk
http://www.twitter.com/jamaliputeh
http://www.twitter.com/azmikama
http://www.twitter.com/isaabdsm
http://www.twitter.com/khaisaniy
http://www.twitter.com/faridfaksi
http://www.twitter.com/zu_liana
http://www.twitter.com/salleh_satar
http://www.twitter.com/hashim_hasni
http://www.twitter.com/hafshammohd
http://www.twitter.com/zol_kiffle
http://www.twitter.com/zultaha
http://www.twitter.com/azilah832
http://www.twitter.com/syazwan417
http://www.twitter.com/redhamat
http://www.twitter.com/nurismarlia1
http://www.twitter.com/pkannip
http://www.twitter.com/puterisamad
http://www.twitter.com/sharulaziz
http://www.twitter.com/nizamtaslim
http://www.twitter.com/jussydas1
http://www.twitter.com/nageswarymunia
http://www.twitter.com/sarisyakirin
http://www.twitter.com/rafizatulaishah
http://www.twitter.com/ahmaddinie1
http://www.twitter.com/faridah_jaafar
http://www.twitter.com/raihanalatib
http://www.twitter.com/jaafar_f
http://www.twitter.com/rahaizadrahim1
http://www.twitter.com/fakriafiq
http://www.twitter.com/fitri_razali
http://www.twitter.com/elfyraroza
http://www.twitter.com/r_anbarasan
http://www.twitter.com/puridahburandin
http://www.twitter.com/suzlizahusin
http://www.twitter.com/shahrilanuar4
http://www.twitter.com/hasrol_hashim
http://www.twitter.com/fadilakamaruddi
http://www.twitter.com/alia_bazid
http://www.twitter.com/lchongwai
http://www.twitter.com/fahmi_kadri
http://www.twitter.com/nujaidamat
http://www.twitter.com/chia_kum
http://www.twitter.com/fariztajudinf
http://www.twitter.com/fadzrulpudzi
http://www.twitter.com/phangyoonsim
http://www.twitter.com/wargaputrajaya

Written by politweet

September 10, 2012 at 11:11 am

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  1. […] politicians’ followers in August found 594,893 active users, but that includes foreigners and Clones. We will continue to collect data and recalculate this estimate in 1-2 weeks time. Share […]


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