Twitter is a micro-blogging Web application with over three million users. A post on Twitter, called a tweet, must be 140 characters or fewer in length. A user can follow other users. When a user follows another user, the second user is notified and can decide whether to reciprocate by following back. A user's friends are all of the users whom he follows and is followed by.

Project Realboy is an experimental effort to create believable Twitter bots, called Realboys. We feel obligated to mention that Twitter's Terms of Service state that "you must not abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate other Twitter users." Our experiment does not violate Twitter's Terms of Service because we are not impersonating Twitter users, we are simply imitating them.

Realboy behavior

According to "Leveraging social networks to fight spam," email spammers can be easily identified by the fact that there are no triangles in their social graphs. "Application of Social Relation Graphs for Early Detection of Transient Spammers" defines a more sophisticated algorithm that amounts to identifying as spammers people who are not well connected within the social graph. "Mining (social) network graphs to detect random link attacks" describes a Random Link Attack as an attack involving the creation of a set of fake identities and using them to spam people randomly. The paper suggests an algorithm for detecting Random Link Attacks using social graphs. Based on these findings, we decided that the best way to deploy a Realboy and avoid detection is to associate each Realboy with an existing community and attempt to become part of the social community by friending people in the community.

In order to get the attention of a Realboy's community, we decided that the Realboy should tweet about the topics that are important to the community. In order to avoid having to worry about natural language parsing and sentence construction, we decided to simply duplicate tweets about these important topics. We decided to let each Realboy automatically tweet every so many hours, and start friending several community members at a time after building up a small history of tweets.

Specifically, we established the following goals for Realboy behavior:

A Realboy should be able to

  1. Clone Twitter posts from users external to its social knot
  2. Follow users in its social knot
  3. Get a 25% follow-back rate.