Bots aren’t necessarily evil and may not be spreading fake news, but the problem comes when you don’t know if it’s a person or a bot posting something.

And there are some Twitter account whose sole purpose is to pump out disinformation. Twitter, along with other social networks is trying to curb the spread by shutting down these accounts and - according to Norton - shut down over 26,000 accounts in 2019. This is, of course, a drop in the ocean considering there are around 330 million active users on Twitter.

Norton says it has been developing the tool for a while and is now happy to let anyone use it, though it remains in beta for now.

You can get it as an extension for Chrome (and Brave) plus Firefox. A Microsoft Edge version is on the way, as is an app so you can use it on your phone, rather than only on a PC, Mac or laptop.

It works in most areas of Twitter including your feed, search results and trending topics. It uses around 20 different signals to determine whether a human or bot posted something and these include the ‘randomness’ of the Twitter handle, whether the account is verified or not, how quickly it is gaining followers, and the account description.

Norton BotSight tool
Norton's BotSight tool indicates a likely bot account replying to a popular Twitter account

If the tool thinks the account is human and the score is over 90%, you can be pretty certain that it isn’t a bot. A red bot icon and a high percentage indicates that it's unlikely to be a human.

Overall Norton reckons bots account for about 5 percent of all tweets, and that number is in decline. However, if you filter the tweets by trending topics such as COVID-19, that percentage jumps to around 20. And that’s why it’s worth using the tool: if one in five tweets could be fake news, BotSight can help you spot them straight away.

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