Is Twitter Using Fire to Put Out Another Fire?

Automated Twitter accounts

Twitter (TWTR) recently fought off claims that a substantial portion of its more than 320 million monthly users are not real people, but automated or robot accounts.

Considering that Twitter is primarily a platform for people to interact and share their thoughts, automated accounts are considered fake accounts. That description doesn’t enhance Twitter’s reputation.

Is Twitter Using Fire to Put Out Another Fire?

Twitter disagrees with researchers on fake accounts

While the company acknowledges that it hosts some fake accounts, it says there aren’t as many as some independent researchers have claimed. According to researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of Indiana, nearly 15% of Twitter accounts are run by robots. However, Twitter’s perspective is that less than 5% of its user base can be described as fake.

Twitter added 9 million monthly active users in 1Q17, which was sharply up from 2 million added in 4Q16 and 5 million added in 1Q16, as shown in the chart above.

Diluting fake accounts debate

If the fake accounts claim is going to be a distracting issue, Twitter has started taking steps that suggest it would want to stifle the debate. The company recently rolled out a feature that encourages businesses to deploy robots or chatbots on its platform to augment their customer support operations.

The rise of useful automated accounts could reduce the concern about robotic or fake Twitter accounts. Twitter needs to get distractions out of its way so that it can focus on rebuilding its advertising business to fend off growing competition from Facebook (FB), Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Google, Snap (SNAP), and Yelp (YELP).