Technologists once told us that social bots would change our lives forever. They were right — but not in the way they expected.
Less transparent social bots — primarily on Twitter and other social platforms — posed a risk to media and discourse. “Platforms, governments and citizens must step in and consider the purpose — and future — of bot technology before manipulative anonymity becomes a hallmark of the social bot,” the authors cautioned.
This warning wasn’t just a prediction; it was based in observation. Anonymous bots masquerading as citizen and political actors had been a creeping feature in foreign elections for years. The 2012 election of President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico was supported by armies of automated social-media accounts, which flooded Twitter with supportive messages. “Peñabots” became a feature of online Mexican political discourse through at least 2015. But bots hadn’t yet run rampant on American tech companies’ home turf. Manipulation by A.I. was typically seen as “something that was happening somewhere else,” M.C. Elish, a researcher at Data & Society who contributed to the report, told me. “We only notice something when it’s arrived on our doorstep.”
Source: Not the Bots We Were Looking For New York Times