Computer scientists have found massive collections of fake accounts on the micro-blogging site Twitter, suggesting that one person or a group is managing these accounts.
According to a BBC report on Wednesday, the largest network that was found tied together more than 350,000 accounts and further work suggested that others might be even bigger.
As of the third quarter of 2016, the micro-blogging service averaged at 317 million monthly active users.
The networks were uncovered accidentally when some researchers were probing Twitter to see how people use it. Some of the accounts were used to fake follower numbers, send spam and boost interest in trending topics.
On Twitter, bots are accounts that are run remotely by someone who automates the messages they send and activities they carry out. Some people pay to get bots to follow their account or to dilute chatter about controversial subjects.
"It is difficult to assess exactly how many Twitter users are bots," Juan Echeverria, computer scientist at University College London (UCL) who uncovered the massive networks was quoted as saying.
Echeverria's analysis revealed that lots of linked accounts, suggesting one person or group is running the botnet. These accounts did not act like the bots other researchers had found but were clearly not being run by humans.
A botnet is a network of private computers infected with malicious software and controlled as a group without the owners' knowledge.
The network of 350,000 bots were linked because it was found that the tweets were coming from places where nobody lives, messages were being posted only from Windows phones and the tweets were quotes from Star Wars novels, the report added.