[COMMENTARY] Tips From A Trollslayer: How to Spot the Bots and Other Fakes On Twitter
If you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably been trolled, especially if you’ve ever tweeting anything pro-Democrat. Thanks to technology (she said very sarcastically), bots can appear like regular terrible humans who love Donald Trump and hate proper grammar. Some are more obvious than others (no actual photo? No actual pulse), but many can be deceptively human-ish unless you’re savvy enough to be able to spot the subtle tells in any given tweet.
Luckily for you, Dear Reader, I get trolled on the daily by the dumbest examples of both humanity and non-humanity. Being a Verified user gives me more visibility, especially if I’m using a trending hashtag. I’ve been on Twitter lo these twelve years, and I’ve learned to spot a bot in seconds. There are all kinds of ways to know if it’s a bot or not, and therefore I invite you to learn from me!
Now, I’m not saying everyone who comes for you isn’t a real person. There are clearly plenty of awful and real people out there who have nothing better to do than show up in your feed with a stupid meme of President Biden or Hillary Clinton. Also, having a blue checkmark doesn’t preclude someone from being an awful Trumper; every member of the GOP is Verified on Twitter, as are plenty of the MAGA minions. Take The Artist Formerly Known As Chachi, with whom I tangled in 2016 and this is how that turned out.
Then there’s this Verified guy I’d never heard of before he trolled a friend of mine over a tweet where she posted a photo of herself wearing a “Don’t F*ck Republicans” shirt (not edited) and is especially terrible. He’s got maybe a 2nd grade bully game going, claims to love toxic masculinity, and hasn’t blocked me yet, so we’ll see how this one turns out.
Same place dr Fauci went.
— Aubrey Huff (@aubrey_huff) June 2, 2021
But back to the ones you’ll most often have to watch out for, since the more famous MAGAs tend to be more reactive than start something with an individual. I have them broken down into categories that are easy to recognize, and I’ll share some examples. After this, you should be able to spot the bots like a pro! How you decide to deal with them is another manner, and I’ll give you tips as we go through the different troll types.
- The Real MAGAts: they usually have a decent follower/following count and joined within the last 5 years. They repeat the latest Trump talking points as if they’re actual facts and will move the goalposts to keep you engaged anytime you prove them wrong. They will also demand you show things to them without answering any of your questions or showing you any real proof to back up their ludicrous claims. The best way to be sure is by checking a site like BotSentinel.com, which rates accounts by their activity.
- The Fake MAGAts. They have names like “MAGAPatriot2020” or “PatriotWoman4Trump”, joined last year, and have either 2 or 20K followers, and most of them are bots as well. They ask seemingly oblique questions like “But how is he a traitor?” or “Why do you say that? I’m genuinely asking because I have not heard that” or something to get you to answer. DO NOT ANSWER. Once they have you, you’re toast. You’ll get swarmed by all the other bots, which might then also signal the real MAGAts, and then your whole day is reporting and blocking (which you should ALWAYS do).
- The Sad Rose Bros. Identified by the wilted flower emoji next to their names, these still-devoted Berners are big mad that not enough people showed up to vote for their Revolution, so they take it out on Democrats while acting like MAGAts. They’re not always male, but they’re always terrible, leaning into a more MAGA approach to trolling like using personal attacks against your appearance. They also love to ask liberal women “Why don’t you support Tara Reade?” SO FUN!
- The Bunchanumbers Family. They have names like Dave98347598235 and Chad237265826. This is your entry-level bot. A Bunchanumbers bot often has no user photo, just the default egg/silhouette shape. Or they use a stock photo or a picture of a famous person. They also seem particularly hyper-critical of strange things like Uncle Phil Bunchanumbers here. They get insta-blocked. Never engage with the Bunchanumbers Family, they’re TRASH.
There are also other offshoots of these types. Anti-vaxxers, QAnons, the hypocritical Christians who troll you with profanity over abortion, your garden variety racists, homophobes, and anti-Semites who also belong to at least one of the above categories. Always check the date they joined and compared it with their follower/following counts. If they joined in 2008 and haven’t grown their following past 42 followers? That’s an old account someone bought and is now using for propaganda, yay Russia!
It’s really up to how you want to deal with a troll. I’d say that 99% of the time I report anyone who trolls me as fake and then block it without engaging, because even it’s a real person who’s being terrible, they don’t deserve my attention or energy. Sometimes I’ll screenshot an especially egregious one as a warning for my followers, or make an example of a MAGA lie that’s being pushed that we need to watch out for.
But then there are those times you get one where you don’t know what’s going on. No matter what, I always check first when someone comes for me when they weren’t sent for (hot tip: I’ll never send for you, losers).
So that’s a fairly new account with a Satisfactory rating from BotSentinel who was awful to me. Two followers? How impressive. Not worth my time. Reported and blocked.
But sometimes I play with them, like when a cat finds an injured mouse and bats it around for a while before eventually devouring it. In my case, I’ll quote-tweet them to shame them, always adding something snarky, and then my followers usually drop a nice little missive, we all have a laugh at their expense, and then I forget the person existed.
That guy wanted to know why I didn’t share my “breast exam” and “pap smear” in my “bio”. I checked BotSentinel and he was real. So my followers and I had some fun kicking his ass before I eventually blocked him, because he seemed to be getting a little too…aroused when discussing my medical history, which is also none of his business. But before I did, I used one of my favorite lines when dispatching these weak little men: “Don’t you have to finish inflating your girlfriend? You know she can’t do it by herself.” It usually gets a nice response, if I may humblebrag here for a second.
— Tom Arnold (@TomArnold) May 30, 2021
No matter what they might be, they all get blocked eventually, because we all have better things to do than fight on the internets. If you have more questions, follow me on Twitter and I’ll be happy to help you slay your troll!