Twitter is growing. In December 2012, it had about 185 million monthly active users; right now, that figure stands at 271 million.
Well, not quite. In a new filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Twitter has revised its user count, admitting that 8.5% of those active users—a metric that demonstrates whether people actually, well, use it—aren't human. They're bots—23 million in all, reports Quartz.*
Like, say, @EveryColorBot:
Or whatever this amazing thing is:
Or the multitude of pretty, slightly porn-y faces plastered onto spambots, as sussed out by my colleague Jason Feifer.
It's why, as Re/code points out, that Twitter is now touting a metric other than size with which to attract advertisers. Twitter claims that only 11% of its monthly users are using third-party apps like Tweetbot, meaning nearly 90% of users can see Twitter's ads.
Update 3:11 p.m. ET: The SEC statement says that "only up to approximately 8.5% of all active users used third party applications that may have automatically contacted our servers for regular updates without any discernable additional user-initiated action." These automated accounts don't necessarily post updates to Twitter. Rather, the language refers to applications that refresh Twitter feeds automatically—say, one of the screens on the HTC's Sense software—which confuses the system. Quartz's original story has been updated accordingly. Twitter would not comment as to what percentage of its users are actually bots.
Curious, we put Fast Company's Twitter account through an audit to determine what percentage of our 1.22 million followers were not human. The results: 12% were fake and 46% were inactive.