Bots are devouring content

It`s time to stop the feeding frenzy.

Whenever I read claims by friends, clients or colleagues about high traffic to their sites or some such, I am tempted to ask - you sure it`s all human?

Industry surveys show that anywhere between 29% and 52% of all web traffic is bot; read not human. Extrapolated, it means of your 500 web visitors daily, a minimum of 145 and 250 are computer programs. What?!!!

Serious publishers, SEO specialists and content marketers are aware of this menace but it is the average Joe - the food blogger, the digital artist, the travel writer - who’ve never heard of bots, or are dimly aware of them. Those who are, do not know how to tackle them.

Traffic is one aspect. Bots (and here, I refer to only the malicious or bad ones) also cause serious monetary loss when they are used to perpetuate ad click frauds, and even used for money laundering purposes.

As some one who has been part of the web/Internet/digital industry for almost two decades, I can claim to have had a ringside view to the growth of bots. It`s become an entire industry now, albeit on the dark side, representing the seamier side of the World Wide Web.

But what infuriates me is that not much was done all these years to tackle this dark force despite its growing tentacles. In fact, for long, black hat SEO “specialists” used bots to con unsuspecting clients into believing the numbers, whether traffic or ad clicks, or social media likes or followers. Some even used such “fake” numbers to get funding!

I am happy to note that it is only now, maybe in the last year or so, that a concerted effort by government agencies, private enterprises and digital publishers is being made to take on bots.

I could not find specific surveys that told me of the percentage of publishers that had employed the services of fraud patrol professionals but from my research, only about 6% of global publishers were doing that. That`s all.


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Compared to the millions, if not billions, of dollars that the industry bleeds because of direct and indirect bot fraud, one would think that this number would be higher, but sadly, it is not.

Nevertheless, a beginning has been made to contain the menace.

As if all of this was not bad enough, we are now seeing the emergence of mobile computing devices bots. Experts tell me that most of these launch off servers, and simulate specific tasks such as ad clicks and installs, while passing off as legitimate users.

Since I’ve only limited space, what I am doing to cut a long story short, is put up some relevant links here about the menace of bots over the years for you to read at leisure:

https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2018/how-twitter-is-fighting-spam-and-malicious-automation.html

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/02/08/mps-try-tackle-fake-news-end-bombarded-bots/

https://www.csmonitor.com/Technology/2018/0822/Internet-cop-on-patrol-Microsoft-aggressively-fights-fraud-and-hacks

https://medium.com/the-jist/how-tech-giants-are-tackling-bots-and-misinformation-8f63aad4ad2

https://duo.com/decipher/tackling-twitter-bots-with-biometrics

https://www.marketingprofs.com/charts/2019/41219/is-the-fight-against-bot-ad-fraud-succeeding

For a very comprehensive write up on bots, click here.

Malicious bots are now being tackled not only by more laws like the California’s SB 1001—the "Bolstering Online Transparency," or B.O.T. bill, but also anti-bot measures by private organizations, and the use of artificial intelligence-linked technologies like face recognition software.

There are hundreds of software being sold by online security companies that claim to offer a way out; stop your ads being clicked on fraudulently or prevent fake news, or falsely increase social media fan following numbers, and so on.

Like-minded tech companies and publishers have also bandied themselves into non-profit organizations with a vow to tackle this cyber crime.

But somewhere at the back of my mind is a niggling thought that refuses to go away - is it a case of too little being done too late in the day? What say?

All comments, welcome.