Peter Laflin

Deconstructing a Twitter spam attack

Data analysis shows the structure of a network can separate true influencers from fake accounts.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the effect fake Twitter accounts have on brands trying to keep track of social media engagement. A recent tweet spam attack offers an instructive example.

On the morning of October 1, the delegates attending the Strata Conference in London started to notice that a considerable number of spam tweets were being sent using the #strataconf hashtag. Using a tool developed by Bloom Agency, with data from DataSift, an analysis has been done that sheds light on the spam attack directed at the conference.

The following diagram shows a snapshot of the Twitter conversation after a few tweets had been received containing the #strataconf hashtag. Each red or blue line represents a connection between two Twitter accounts and shows how information flowed as a result of the tweet being sent. By 11 a.m., individual communities had started to emerge that were talking to each other about the conference, and these can clearly be seen in the diagram.

Strataconf tweeting communities

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