Detecting Malicious Social Bots: Story of a Never-Ending Clash

Cresci, Stefano; Grimme, Christian; Preuss, Mike; Takes, Frank W.; Waldherr, Annie

Recently, studies on the characterization and detection of social bots were published at an impressive rate. By looking back at over ten years of research and experimentation on social bots detection, in this paper we aim at understanding past, present, and future research trends in this crucial field. In doing so, we discuss about one of the nastiest features of social bots – that is, their evolutionary nature. Then, we highlight the switch from supervised bot detection techniques – focusing on feature engineering and on the analysis of one account at a time – to unsupervised ones, where the focus is on proposing new detection algorithms and on the analysis of groups of accounts that behave in a coordinated and synchronized fashion. These unsupervised, group-analyses techniques currently represent the state-of-the-art in social bot detection. Going forward, we analyze the latest research trend in social bot detection in order to highlight a promising new development of this crucial field.