January 3, 2023 3 min read


Spam Bots on Twitter Promote Gambling in China, Says Study

The results of a new research reveal that spam bots using the social media platform Twitter promote escort and gambling services. Despite COVID-19 protests in November, the spam bots flooded the search results in China with such offers which are considered illegal

One of the main challenges social media faces nowadays are spam bots. Despite algorithms and integrity measures, automated bots that promote ads continue to be a thing that’s part of major social media platforms, and getting rid of them requires a lot of scrutiny and resources.

Spam Bots Continue to Be a Part of Social Media

Back in October, Elon Musk took control of Twitter after a deal for the mind-blowing $44 billion. Soon after, he started implementing major changes to the platform, one of which included a significant reduction in the workforce. Musk also dismantled Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council, which was established to primarily monitor hate speech, automated bots, and other issues for the platform. Despite reducing the workforce and shutting down the company’s Trust and Safety Council, Musk said that repealing spam bots is a “top priority” for Twitter.

In November 2022, COVID-19 protests in China were largely viral on social media. Twitter was one of the platforms used by the Chinese protestors that hit the street rejecting COVID-19 restrictions. Using social media, protestors showed the harsh reality of strict lockdowns and other pandemic-related measures.

Promoting Gambling and Escorts

Although there were probably millions of Tweets related to the protests in China, The New York Times uncovered that spam bots overflowed that information, offering gambling and escort ads and making it difficult for anyone to see what is actually happening in China.

A researcher from Stanford University uncovered that spam bots helped push spam results for 10 Chinese cities when the search was using Chinese characters. The spambot activity was widespread, as spam results appeared even if the search included names of cities where there were no protests against COVID-19.

Upon contacting those businesses, the researchers found that they purchased Twitter ads services via advertising agencies. This was an interesting discovery, considering that the promotion of pornographic materials, as well as prostitution, is prohibited in China. What’s more, the country has tough measures against those activities and constantly monitors such attempts.

The results of the researchers’ Twitter probe tracked millions of Tweets from spambots. While some bots were banned, others would quickly emerge and keep flooding the search results. Yet, the discovery isn’t that surprising, considering that in general, social media platforms find it difficult to police fake news or spam for languages other than English.

One reason that makes it more difficult to sort out spam bots is that it involves resources. To ensure that platforms aren’t censoring their users this means that the workforce that is scrutinizing the platform needs to speak the native tongue, which can often be challenging because it involves investment. At the same time, spam bots continue to be an inseparable part of social media platforms.


William Velichkov is a research-driven writer. His strengths lie in ensuring factual accuracy, vetting government documentation and reaching out to regulators and other officials. He is particularly fond of financial reporting, the sports betting industry, B2B partnerships and esports betting developments. William is a strong asset to the GamblingNews team as he adds a bedrock to our reporting.

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