Twitter botnets detection in sports events

Twitter botnets detection in sports events

This report is an analysis of social botnets. We have analyzed two different Twitter conversations and identified the behavior of several groups of profiles with automatic and non-standard activity. The first conversation focuses on the 2018 FIFA World Cup, held between the 14th of June and the 15th of July. We worked on the communities of the entire conversation and discovered several groups of profiles behaving oddly. After applying proprietary algorithms, we confirmed that those communities were content diffusing botnets that were activated during the football games in order to share illegal streaming URL’s.

In order to make a wider analysis, we investigated then a larger scope of sports, as a second conversation, in the entire world for five weeks; from the 1st of November until the 10th of December 2018. This new conversation covered the sports streaming theme in Twitter and included important events like the Premier League, UEFA Champions League or the weekly NFL games in the US. Not only we discovered that some of the botnets identified in the FIFA World Cup were still active and diffusing current content, but new botnets were found focused in different sports.

Our goals for this report were:

  • Find botnets associated to the illegal broadcasting of sport events.
  • Observe their evolution over time.
  • Identify new botnets from the previously found ones.
  • Understand the behavior of Twitter botnets.
  • Prevent and control de diffusion of content via Twitter botnets.

As a result, we have learnt how to identify this kind of networks, and we have started to apply these insights in several uses cases, such as in reputational crisis.

When comparing the analyzed conversations, we did observe that 25 bot profiles coincide and have been active and sharing streaming content since June 2018.

Some of the conclusions were:

  • Twitter botnets are not usually focused on a particular sport; they consider any major relevant sport event to promote their illegal.
  • Tweets related to illegal American Football broadcasting represents up to 0.5% of the tweets related to this sport.
  • Some countries have only a few servers broadcasting illegal sport links.
  • The three top countries broadcasting illegal sport content are United States, Spain and Germany.

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