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How to Tell if Someone is Viewbotting (and other malicious things)

There's an aspect of livestreaming video games that gets under my skin a bit.

Viewbotting.

A lot of streamers have done it in the past. In fact, I once caught someone viewbotting and looked at who the bots were "following."

A laundry list of very familiar names showed up, many partnered accounts on Twitch with millions of followers. Well-known streamers making a living. It's definitely abused a lot on streaming platforms, sort of the "black hat" method of livestreaming.

Thankfully, nobody I saw listed from those bot accounts was any streamer that I was supporting. I don't bother supporting anyone trying to find "get partnership quick" methods.

If you want to build a business out of streaming video games, then please don't bother viewbotting. You'll eventually find you wasted your money and your community will likely abandon you.

However, if you feel that someone is viewbotting, here's a few ways you can tell someone is doing it.

How to Tell if Someone is Viewbotting


There are a couple tools out on the market (free!) that I use to track how a community is built. One of my favorites is Social Blade, a free tool that shows, visually, the ebb and flow of a community. 

It's also great to track your own social media efforts. Gains, losses, average counts, other things.

What you want to look for is a machine-based growth pattern. Something like a single follow every 5 minutes is very easy to spot, especially if they are the only unnatural follows in a channel for a long time.

Also, it doesn't hurt to lurk into a suspected streamer's channel while they're offline. Sometimes they forget to turn off bots that welcome in bots following, and it's pretty easy to see the results.

What Does a Bot Look Like?


Bots are actually pretty easy to spot. Some services generate randomized names with a picture so they look legitimate--only the problem is the bot names are non-sensical. Something like neraspuchan101 or similar, where phonetically it makes sense, but it doesn't actually provoke imagery or mean anything.

The Twitch profile will use an image, but it's typically clip-art or some "purchased" image for use so it looks legit.

However, the bot will most likely not have a following, nor will it have a Twitch profile banner. 

Other Ways to Find Botting

If someone's channel is exploding with a huge number of viewers, don't immediately think they're viewbotting. It may be the case they just got a huge count from a host or raid.

In fact, this happened to me once. I was streaming and didn't recognize someone had hosted me. Viewers I hadn't seen for months stopped in. 

It was only when I saw my viewcount (it was over 50) that I started raising questions. I looked at my current host list and a popular Blizzard Entertainment streamer was hosting me. 

So, keep that in mind when you see a high view count.

However, if there's a high view count, and very few people appear to be communicating, take a look and see what you can find if you feel your suspicions are warranted.

What to Do Against the Fake View

I'll admit this touches on livestreaming ethics after you've found someone viewbotting. You have every right to report someone for abusing Twitch (or any livestreaming service) once you suspect they are gaining unnatural views.

Recognize that when you report someone for viewbotting, you have the capability of destroying their business.

Some have been banned from Twitch because of the surmounting evidence that they willingly and knowingly used a service to boost their numbers simply to gain partnership. 

There's a key question behind this, however:

Does this mean the streamer that you report will get banned for viewbotting?

No.

The reason is that viewbotting services have been used in the past as a method to "attack" other streamers.

Streaming is not a "sunshine and clouds" industry. Millions of people in current generations would love to make a living off of streaming video games as a business. 

The problem is the politics are so high that (at least from what I can tell) others are willing to find malicious ways of getting other streamers banned or their entire communities to vacate. Viewbotting someone else could be a "method of attack."

The problem is that it's difficult to find evidence of a person using a viewbotting service to get partnership. That's why people that are reported for viewbotting aren't typically banned.

There must be very clear evidence that someone uses a viewbotting service for their own purposes, and that isn't the easiest to find and submit.

However, if you've found that there are clear signs someone's account is being viewbotted, you can report them through Twitch. Providing screenshots is almost necessary.

Beyond the Viewbot

I've received word through a wonderful streamer that Twitch's methods to detect viewbotting are a lot more sophisticated than they used to be. Chalk it up to Amazon's development efforts in founding something that can detect machine-based growth and false numbers.

But sometimes there still needs to be a human effort to see through automated processes. Partnership applications probably flood their inbox by several thousand a day, so machines can't always be the best at giving the purple checkmark

So in a nutshell, if you want to tell how someone is viewbotting, try the following:
  • look at their follower list
  • scan their followers for non-sensical account names
  • look for very little or no personal details from followers (profile pages not filled out, image spots empty)
  • evaluate viewership counts with actual chatters
  • use tools like Social Blade to check for machine-based growth
  • and lurk in their channel while they're offline.
It's up to you if you want to report them on Twitch (or whatever streaming platform) to stop their viewbotting service.

If their streams shortly after your report (given a month or so) suddenly shrink heavily, well, your efforts weren't put to waste. It's clear they were being viewbotted somehow. 

Just recognize that you are potentially destroying someone's business and affecting their money--for the right reasons though, at least in my opinion.

Eventually, I think we'll get to a point where machine algorithms can detect fake growth very easily and we won't need to examine someone else's stream to see if they're abusing streaming platforms so they can get some kind of status.

But for now, if you want to tell if someone is viewbotting, I think those are pretty easy methods. Determine whether or not you still want to support the streamer afterward. That's up to you.

If you'd like to stop by my stream, I welcome you. I stream (mostly) 5 PM PST weekends, but since I have a lot of bills to take care of, that's not always the case.

Thank you for reading.

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