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Twitter Bots Skewing NBA All-Star Fan Votes?

Tweet: “Kawhi Leonard #NBAVOTE” and see what happens.

NBA: All-Star Practice Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With 2017 NBA All-Star fan voting in full swing and returns coming out on a weekly basis, something is amiss. Those who regularly peruse social media know that most platforms are loaded with “bots” (fake accounts that are set up to carry out specific actions automatically). Facebook has them, Twitter has them, and if your Instagram post has ever been liked by SomeScantilyCladLady12345, you know these things are everywhere. So how is it that the NBA, that heavily incorporates social media into the All-Star voting process, is unaffected? Spoiler alert: It’s not.

Reddit user /u/shotrob noticed that Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs—an unassuming star on a small market team—was one of the leading vote getters in the first round of returns earlier this week. Now, whether or not Leonard deserves to start is a matter of opinion, as he is one of the most gifted players in the league, but with a little investigation /u/shotrob discovered that Leonard is, perhaps, benefitting from automatic Twitter votes:

I was always skeptical on how Kawhi could be one of the leading vote getters on twitter considering he doesn't use it and he isn't the type of guy who hypes himself up.

So I went on twitter to see for myself and gave him a vote to see if anything would happen. After 30 seconds of posting, I get a notification saying that 10 bot accounts with KL pictures retweeted my tweet. I repeated this and the same thing happened - go on twitter and try it for yourself

Curious, I tested this myself. Sure enough, not 30 seconds went by before my tweet was simultaneously retweeted by 10 accounts—most of which were some variation of “KLeonard(number)” with no Avatar.

Others have tested this as well; some experiencing the automatic retweets, some not, the majority receiving between 6-10 instant retweets.

The impact this has on fan voting may be small, it may not. What is to stop someone from making hundreds of new bots daily? Is the NBA finding a way to filter out fake accounts, or is this a flaw in the current voting system that needs to be fixed right away? Fans on Twitter can only vote for 10 unique players each day, so if we are looking at 10 accounts and 10 accounts only, the impact could be marginal. The implication, however, is enormous.

Try it yourself if you’re comfortable lending Leonard a vote. This issue needs visibility so the NBA can resolve it. Let us know if it worked for you in the comments below.

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