Characterizing and Detecting Livestreaming Chatbots
Abstract: Livestreaming platforms enable content producers, or streamers, to broadcast creative content to a potentially large viewer base. Chatrooms form an integral part of such platforms, enabling viewers to interact both with the streamer, and amongst themselves. Streams with high engagement (many viewers and active chatters) are typically considered engaging, and often promoted to end users by means of recommendation algorithms, and exposed to better monetization opportunities via revenue share from platform advertising, viewer donations, and thirdparty sponsorships. Given such incentives, some streamers make use of fraudulent means to increase perceived engagement by simulating chatter via fake “chatbots” which can be purchased from shady online marketplaces. This inauthentic engagement can negatively influence recommendation, hurt streamer and viewer trust in the platform, and harm monetization for honest streamers. In this paper, we tackle the novel problem of automating detection of chatbots on livestreaming platforms. To this end, we first formalize the livestreaming chatbot detection problem and characterize differences between botted and genuine chatter behavior observed from a real-world livestreaming chatter dataset collected from Twitch.tv. We then propose SHERLOCK, which posits a two-stage approach of detecting chatbotted streams, and subsequently detecting the constituent chatbots. Finally, we demonstrate effectiveness on both real and synthetic data: to this end, we propose a novel strategy for collecting labeled, synthetic chatter dataset (typically unavailable) from such platforms, enabling evaluation of proposed detection approaches against chatbot behaviors with varying signatures. Our approach achieves .97 precision/recall on the real-world dataset, and .80+ F1 scores across most simulated attack settings.