Bot or Not? Identifying active and inactive accounts


Before drawing conclusions about accounts, it is crucial to verify them. When an account check has not been executed, it can have serious repercussions as seen in this CTV Edmonton report. The Canadian national broadcaster posted a tweet stating the a bot account had been promoting a political movement, which later proved to be a real account.

CTV article claimed an account was a bot when it was in fact a person who was actively using their account on Twitter.

In order to see if an account is active, there are many things you can do to check. Accounts that don’t update frequently or have not paid to renew their domain are some easy indicators. However, it is always good to go in depth to see if a person is who they say they are or a valid info source.

You can use these simple tips to verify if an account is managed by a real or fake owner:

  • Check bio – what are their credentials?
  • Tweets & replies – read through the replies to see their biases
  • Check if they share the same URLs/content
  • Following/followers – Another great way to check bias, however a follow is not always an endorsement
  • The original image/video and creator are most important to have – you won’t have to trace back if it’s the earliest version
  • Run a search before sending to a newsrooms/outlet
  • Compare metadata: what information is available about their account
  • Ask a person to send the photo/video directly from their phone or camera through text or email, always use an encrypted app
  • Think about the network 
    • Friends, followers, conversations, retweets, shares, likes
    • What their content is
  • Check when the account was created 
  • See if you can find other accounts 
  • Reverse image their profile photo
    • see the video below for tips on how to do this

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