Is Twitter’s Bot Problem an Advertising Problem?

Dr. Munr Kazmir
5 min readAug 11, 2022

What is this argument over Twitter bots really about?

Photo by Abenteuer Albanien on Unsplash.

Love him or hate him, Elon Musk continues to push the social media envelope with his ongoing struggles both for and against Twitter.

Is Elon Musk merely a muckraker- as Twitter board executives in their legal filings insist- determined to wrong-foot the gentle social media giant, drive down stock prices, perhaps even just for the hell of it?

Or is Musk starting an important, and long overdue, conversation about influence in online spaces like Twitter?

What’s really going on in Twitter’s public square? More importantly, just who exactly do we have in our new town square? How many bots are on Twitter?

The total number of bot accounts on Twitter, according to the Twitter board and its FEC filings, is less than 5%. Not everyone is buying this, however, and that includes plenty of Musk’s critics.

“And some researchers have said as many as half of the people on Twitter are bots,” admitted Samuel Wooley, author of Bots, in an interview with Slate back on June 13, 2022. “But I think that’s way overblown. More reasoned researchers would say it’s maybe 15 percent or 20 percent of the traffic on Twitter is bots. And we know that the majority of bots on Twitter are spam bots and are commercially motivated.”

“Commercially motivated,” i.e. advertising. And stealthy advertising at that.

What impact is this enormous, invisible undercurrent of advertising having on new public square spaces like Twitter?

Many social media users, and members of the media, don’t seem overly concerned about Musk’s million-bot questions, distracted as they are by the future social media fortunes of just one Twitter user: Donald J. Trump.

In addition, progressives are locked in an on-again, off-again love/hate relationship with Elon Musk

On the recent hand, Musk threatened to restore Donald Trump on Twitter. On the other hand, Elon Musk did much more than revolutionize the electric car; Tesla actually made electric cars cool somehow.

Celebrities may have sported the occasional Prius in the past, as a nod to environmental causes and never mind the…