What is a Viewbot?

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Streaming platforms like Twitch, Mixer, and YouTube have recently exploded in popularity, creating the opportunity for the more popular content creators to bring in ad revenue and paid promotions. The marketing value of a content creator is directly dependent on their number of followers and viewers. That’s where viewbotting comes in.

What is viewbotting?

According to Twitch, viewbotting is the artificial inflation of concurrent view count “using illegitimate scripts or tools.” Streamers use these view fraud bots to boost their streams and get on the virtual leaderboard where they hope to attract legitimate followers and views. Other platforms work the same way, promoting popular channels more than new and unpopular channels.

Streamers get these viewbots on their channels by renting them from the developers who produce the programs. In one of the more famous cases (detailed below), streamers paid $760 per month to sites like twitchstreams.org and twitchshop.com to boost their views. Thanks to these bots, stream platforms and advertisers lose millions of dollars on ads that will never reach a significant audience.

Streamers who are tempted to use viewbot software cheat themselves and the streaming community, losing respect, credibility, and damaging their reputation, often beyond repair. Other streamers who build organic audiences with valued content get knocked out of the leaderboards and “recommended” sections in favor of illegitimate accounts, at least until those accounts are found out and penalized.

Why do bots follow innocent streamers?

Many streamers, especially on Twitch, have experienced artificial inflation of their views without having solicited a bot at all. Bot developers deploy their bots to many different channels to hide the accounts that are paying for the views. Twitch can’t differentiate between perpetrators and victims, so they penalize all viewbotted channels to an extent.

When a channel applies for partnership with Twitch, they’re often denied if Twitch has detected artificial view inflation. Some channels are successful if their legitimate views are high enough without the bots. It’s at the platform’s discretion. Advertisers on those channels will suffer the same losses they would experience on the criminal channels, with no apparent recourse to recover their ad spend.

2018 Twitch vs. Anjomi

In 2018, Twitch won a California-based lawsuit against viewbot creators Michael and Katherine Anjomi. The couple was found guilty of trademark infringement, unfair competition, breach of contract, and violation of the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. They were forced to pay over $1.35 million in damages, including the profit they made in subscriptions. They did not pay back the affected advertisers.

How to Prevent Viewbotting

Streamers can dismiss viewbots from a live stream by changing their status from “playing” to “not playing” and back again or restarting a stream, but this is disruptive for their audience. Advertisers and marketing executives typically don’t have the in-house resources to combat viewbotting effectively. The most effective solution is fraud prevention software that’s just as sophisticated as the bots. FraudBlocker is a US-based fraud prevention firm that works to reduce non-human traffic and increase ROAS for advertisers.
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