Trump winning the robotweet war


When you conduct a poll of human beings and ask them who won each of the two presidential debates (the third is tomorrow) they mostly say Hillary Clinton. But millionaire Donald Trump overwhelmingly wins on web-based polls. Why? The fabled alt-right internet hordes crusading around the internet clicking the lot? Maybe. But his fandom is also winning the bot war, with automated robotweeting and online interaction efforts that far outstrip those of their adversaries.

Bots are social media accounts that automate interaction with other users, and political bots have been particularly active on public policy issues, political crises, and elections. We collected data on bot activity using the major hashtags related to the U.S. Presidential debate. In this brief analysis we find that (1) Twitter traffic on pro-Trump hashtags was roughly double that of the pro-Clinton hashtags, (2) about one third of the pro-Trump twitter traffic was driven by bots and highly automated accounts, compared to one fifth of the pro-Clinton twitter traffic, (3) the significant rise of Twitter traffic around debate time is mostly from real users who generate original tweets using the more neutral hashtags. In short, Twitter is much more actively pro-Trump than pro-Clinton and more of the pro-Trump twitter traffic is driven by bots, but a significant number of (human) users still use Twitter for relatively neutral political expression in critical moments. is the source of the non-peer-reviewed report, which is available to download.

A key point is that there's no evidence the campaigns are doing it. Read the rest

Inside a multimillion dollar fake Kindle book scam


Vancouver-based engineer-turned-"entrepreneur" Valeriy Shershnyov published thousands of titles in the Kindle store, "books" of typo-riddled nonsense that he upranked with a system of bots that gamed Amazon's fraud-detection systems, allowing him to sell more than $3M worth of garbage to unsuspecting Amazon customers. Read the rest

Twitterbot simply retweets people writing "your an idiot"


@whostheidiotnow maintains a carefully curated selection of tweets: ones where the author types the exact phrase "your an idiot." One man's automated blocklist is another's breakfast entertainment! [via @saladinahmed] Read the rest

Interview with teen botmaster whose lawyerbots are saving people millions


Joshua Browder, the teenaged botmaster whose Do Not Pay bot is helping drivers save millions by challenging NYC and London parking tickets and assisting UK homeless people who are applying for benefits, sat down for a chat on the O'Reilly Bots Podcast (MP3). Read the rest

Parking-ticket bot will now help homeless people get benefits

Stanford computer science student Joshua Browder, whose DoNotPay bot helps you fight parking tickets in London and New York (it's estimated to have overturned $4M in tickets to date) has a new bot in the offing: a chatbot that helps newly homeless people in the UK create and optimise their applications for benefits. Read the rest

Lin-Manuel Miranda declares war on bots


Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical Hamilton is arguably the most successful Broadway show of the century (deservedly so -- the soundtrack is practically all I've listened to for the past month) but good luck if you want to get a ticket. Read the rest

Artists troll Thingiverse with 3D model mashup bot

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Shiv Integer is a bot created by artists Matthew Plummer-Fernandez and Julien Deswaef; it downloads Creative Commons-licensed models from Thingiverse, mashes them up into weird and often amazing new shapes, adds machine-generated titles and descriptions to them, and posts them. Read the rest

The future of trollbots


Hugh writes, "In a post-Tay world, where we've proved the Internet can train a bot to be a plausible shitposter, what's the future of politics, hate, and mob rule? Read the rest

Trains Botting: twitterbot posts a new emoji train landscape every 4 hours


Trains Botting/@choochoobot is a new twitterbot from prolific botmaster and EFF staffer Parker Higgins. Read the rest

Jerks were able to turn Microsoft's chatbot into a Nazi because it was a really crappy bot


Microsoft Research deployed a tween-simulating chatbot this week, only to recall it a few hours later because it had turned into a neo-Nazi, and the next day, they published a bewildered apology that expressed shock that it had been so easy for trolls to corrupt their creation. Read the rest

Markovbot creates eerily plausible Drumpf speeches

Churba writes, "Victor from Frostworks threw together a Markov Chain Bot that randomly generates and spits out eerily accurate Trump speeches at the push of a button." Read the rest

Glitch News Network: glitched and mashed news in less than 2 seconds


The Glitch News Network is the latest twitterbot from Shardcore, a prolific purveyor of mad bots (previously). Read the rest

The best twitter bots

Zachary M. Seward picks the best Twitter bots of 2015 for Quartz. My favorite is Derek Arnold's @FFD8FFDB, which tweets random screengrabs from insecure, internet-connected security cameras around the world. .video-container {height:auto;padding-bottom:0;} Read the rest

Stay Woke Bot helps activists explain racism to Twitter randos

Because talking about race on Twitter is an exhausting proposition, unless you are a robot.

Procedurally-generated moths are wonderfully haunting, plausible

Straddling the odd line between science and nature, this amazing new procedural generator pays striking tribute to the dusty, incandescent bodies of moths.

The divine witches of cyberspace

Fortune-telling games help us fumble toward deeper truths, at the junction of technology and mysticism

Tell these games what's wrong


New text-based browser games by Caelyn Sandel and Lydia Neon ask searching questions we may prefer not to answer. I have a hard time being honest with these bots, even though they promise to help.

For lots of us, digital space is more than just a practical tool -- it's a sense of home. When younger many of us were drawn to games, technology and other interactive experiences because of the magic and mystery about who might be sharing those spaces with us. A blinking cursor is like a living thing; our 1990s were lush with weird virtual spaces.

It's now a place where we consistently explore identities and boundaries in nebulous online groups, which can be complicated depending on who you are. If you ever need help with that, Caelyn Sandel's BECCAA 0.8 project is there -- you seek BECCAA out if you're having feelings about something someone made or did online, and it asks you questions and gives you responses that help you process your mood. In between, it offers provocative quotes on feminism, which in itself offers interesting context to consider the structures in which we need support.

Lydia Neon's Player 2 is a forgiveness engine -- you tell it about a specific person and your interpersonal conflict with them, and, among other things, Player 2 helps you decide how you feel about the situation and what, if anything, you want to do about it.

There's something incredibly poignant and disconcerting about having a game talk about a person with you. Read the rest

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