Bots hyped GameStop shares on social media

Cyber security company PiiQ Media have suggested that bots may have hyped up GameStop shares – and other trending assets – on social media platforms such as Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

The Massachusetts based firm, who specialise in social media-based threats, implicated organised economic or foreign actors in the manipulation.

GameStop shares experienced record increases between January 28 and February 5, fuelled by retail investor interest on social media.

The news comes after Reddit chief executive Steve Huffman said to congress that bots, artificial or fake accounts had not played a “significant role” in conversations around GameStop shares on the website.

PiiQ claimed it analysed patterns of appearances of GameStop’s stock symbol (GME) and keywords such as “Hold the Line” across social media platforms and assessed these against posts on an unrelated set of stocks.

The cybersecurity firm claimed it noticed predictable daily “start and stop patterns” in the posts about GameStop, which they claim is indicative of bots.

These patterns saw activity start at the beginning of the trading day, followed by a large spike at the end of the trading day.

PiiQ’s estimates said there are potentially tens of thousands of bots promoting GameStop and other popular “meme stocks”.

In addition, PiiQ said that thousands of fake accounts are available and can be purchased for just $200.

YouTube, Facebook and Instagram did not provide comment on the news, while Twitter suggested that “bots” had become a “catch-all term”.

The news comes amid a crackdown from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) who suspended trading in 15 companies on Friday, because of potential manipulation on social media.

Aaron Barr, co-founder and chief technology officer of PiiQ, said: “We saw clear patterns of artificial behaviour across the other four social media platforms.”

“When you think of organic content, it’s variable in the day, variable day-to-day.”
He added: “It doesn’t have the exact same pattern every day for a month.”

“We proactively monitor for suspicious trading activity tied to stock promotions on social media, and act quickly to stop that trading,” said Melissa Hodgman, the SEC’s acting enforcement director.

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