NY TIMES - Aug 13 - From the earliest days of the Internet, robotic programs, or bots, have been trying to pass themselves off as human. Chatbots greet users when they enter an online chat room, spambots churn out e-mails advertising miracle stocks and unattended bank accounts in Nigeria. Bimbots deploy photos of gorgeous women to hawk work-from-home job ploys and illegal pharmaceuticals. Now come socialbots, programmed to tweet and retweet. This new breed of bots is being designed to sway elections, to influence the stock market, to attack governments, even to flirt with people. Last year, the number of Twitter accounts topped 500M. Some researchers estimate that ~35% of the average Twitter user’s followers are real people. Within two years, ~10 % of activity occurring on social networks will be masquerading bots, according to technology researchers. Dating sites provide especially fertile ground for socialbots. Christian Rudder, a co-founder and GM of OkCupid, said that when his site recently bought and redesigned a smaller site, they witnessed not just a sharp decline in bots, but also a sudden 15% drop in use of the new site by real people. This decrease in traffic occurred because the flirtatious messages and automated “likes” that bots had been posting to members’ pages had imbued the former site with a false sense of intimacy and activity. Mr. Rudder and his programmers are seeking to design their own bots that will flirt with invader bots, courting them into a special room, “a purgatory of sorts,” to talk to one another rather than fooling the humans.
This post also appears on SocialNetworkingWatch.