Rise of the machines…
But… but that’s all my followers!
I can think of a thousand different uses, but the most logical one is political bots for the US presidential election in 2016… but they could be for anything. The modern media places so much power and focus on what’s trending on twitter that the power to occasionally manipulate that is actually worth something.
Have no fear, the A team is on the job.
Somebody needs a network of agents.
Maybe preparation for some botnet of sorts? The agents now being out there and gathering their history to not be Too New?
The hypothesis about manipulating what is trending sounds as the best bet to me, so far.
It’s just Twitter’s way of keeping up their “new signups” metrics.
Don’t feed the vermin.
I reckon it’s a Russian AI powered by a beowulf cluster of lobster brains that wants political asylum.
Rogue AI practicing for Turing test?
Actually, I was kinda serious. Following the theory that these have a “life cycle”, if people voluntarily follow these spam bot accounts out of curiosity, then it will look like they’ve got legit followers, and that would contribute to the problem. Just block them when you see them, and preferably report them as spam.
I wish! Seriously, I have an old note in my “ideas for bots” file that reads “Cory Doctorow’s favorite Twitter feed. Hah!”
I have no idea what I had in mind
I occasionally scan thru my newest followers and manually block the fake accounts. But high profile accounts with growing numbers of followers will have to automate this process.
The Bot Wars are coming.
The spam bots are getting more subtle. I’m spending more time checking out new followers, trying to figure out if they’re real or not.
In general, I tend to get legit new followers immediately after I state a strong opinion in a heated discussion. If I haven’t tweeted anything interesting lately and get a new follower, it almost always looks like a spam bot to me.
Could they be an evolving lifeform?
They have at least one plausible use: really high-quality astroturf. What @jeff_baird said, but not limited to the presidential election. Sock puppets have many many uses.
In the science fiction novel “A Deepness in the Sky”, by Vernor Vinge, (copyright 1999) these kinds of social media bots are used to cover the activities of outer-space aliens by overwhelming the reports of genuinely observed alien activity with many bullshit reports of weirdness. Just sayin’…
One or more of the leaks over the past few years indicated ‘five eyes’ were creating social media bot swarms for propaganda purposes. These intel agencies also would consider ‘sleeper agent’ style attacks systems as a trustworthy strategy to rely on. As it works so powerfully in physical intelligence realms.
The indication of when it started sounds exact, so that likely means this idea came to mind. Encryption, Cameron… GCHQ.
(Obvious caveat, probably quite a number of tweets have been on such subjects. But how frequent on a subject which would be near and dear to GCHQ’s heart?)
My limited understanding of their ‘end game’ is to have a system which can dynamically push “adversarial propaganda” away, and counter it with disinformation. Dynamic, as in, whatever cause they feel a need to push, when they feel a need to push it.
My understanding was such technology was intended to target terrorists, targeting a major privacy rights advocate is disturbing. Why would they stop there?
Reminds me of when the US ran operations against peaceful civil rights activists. Clear crossing of the line.
A good scandal in the making, if this is the case. Which, I have some confidence it is.