The bots are back

Picture of By Lukas Graf

By Lukas Graf

[mks_dropcap style=”letter” size=”48″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]R[/mks_dropcap]emember that I was ranting reporting about awkward bots on social media a few weeks ago? The ones that randomly retweet posts and come up with poetic remarks all by themselves? Well, since my exams are luckily over and I found myself spending way too much time in front of my computer the last days, I had some time to try out Twitter bots myself: A short experiment.

As a hardly-ever-posting, but heavily consuming user on social media, the idea of constantly contributing to Twitter’s endless newsfeed without actually participating was tremendously captivating. In my mind, I was already thinking about a chunk of code on my personal Twitter account, deciding for the schedule and content of my online personality; I imagined my far-away friends and family members to be deeply satisfied about the never-ending tweets on my timeline, providing them with all the information needed.

However, there were two minor issues hindering my imaginary online presence to function flawless.

1) I was afraid of Twitter-Lukas going crazy to take vengeance for all the tweet slavery (Remember Microsoft’s Twitter bot Tay going all “I fucking hate feminists and they should all die and burn in hell”? That’s the kind of craziness I am talking about!)

2) I am not exactly skilled at writing code for anything else than simple websites.

Unfortunately, a solution to issue number one was especially hard to be found. I suppressed my moral concerns by assuming every bot could go crazy at some point (I mean come on, even Microsoft’s bots go crazy!) and finding some handy How-Tos for setting up Twitter bots without any need for coding skills—perfect for me!

Being almost set and ready to go, all that was left to consider was the bot’s function. Already assuming that creating an online replica of my own tweets without coding was out of reach. I opted for something less intense for my very first project. Personal interest combined with my scientific attitude then led me to think of a bot that creatively analyses differences in sex depictions on Twitter: By reposting tweets including “man” and “woman” while replacing “man” with “woman” and the other way around. However, comparing personal interest to personal incapability, the latter definitely overweighed—considering the amount of code and time this would have required, a simpler idea needed to be found.

Rereading the How-tos and keeping the previous idea in the back of my head, I concluded there was not much innovative to create without acquiring knowledge about programming languages of which I had never even heard before. On the edge of giving up, I decided to opt for a fairly simple solution: Let me introduce you to GenderTrouble, a Twitter bot retweeting each and every post tagged with the hashtag #feminism! It conveniently collects all tweets about feminist issues on Twitter, kindly followed by a personal statement (“Feminism is overly important.”—There you go, this is an eerily close Lukas-impersonation anyways).

Nonetheless, “conveniently” collecting all tweets tagged #feminism, the bot also includes tweets heading into the complete opposite direction of what feminism is. Tweets saying “Only men matter. #feminism” or the one above give you an idea of the internet’s … diversity, I guess. To sum up: Sadly, there is no Online-Lukas-bot by the end of this article and I also missed out on the Microsoft-craziness (I blame the lack of code). Anyhow, it was interesting to see the ease with which ease bots can be created by anyone to constantly like or repost other people’s tweets!

Cover: Hsing Wei

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