I was at a meeting in the CIRLinC research group today, discussing our application to be a centre of excellence on the circulation of narratives about climate change, and was fascinated by Helge Drange‘s stories of the automation of climate change debates online. There’s actually a Twitter bot, @AI_AGW, that automatically finds tweets from climate change deniers and tweets counter-arguments with links to scientific sources. Here’s an example:

snapshot of refutal of climate scam argument

You can read more about it at Sierra Magazine and at Discover Magazine.

I asked people on Twitter whether they have other examples of automated discourse engines (or is there a better term?) and Tama Leaver instantly responded with a mention of Jason Mittell’s McLuhan bot, which I must have missed when I was on leave.

screenshot of Tama Leaver and Jason Mittell discussing the McLuhan bot

Jason built @AutoMcLuhan thinking of a wonderful scence from Annie Hall where Woody Allen, annoyed at a fellow movie-goer’s pontification about McLuhan, actually pulls the real McLuhan out from behind a sign to contradict the pontificator. Read Jason’s blog post, and watch the clip from Annie Hall!

Of course, AutoMcLuhan really isn’t very smart. It always replies “You know nothing of my work! You mean my whole fallacy is wrong”, whatever the person mentioning McLuhan said. Magnus Holm sent a tweet linking to a couple of other similarly simplistic bots: @BorgCollective and @beinspace, but as he says, neither is very smart. In fact, all @BorgCollective seems to do is send random tweets to random people with statements such as “YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED” or “EVERYTHING WE SAY MAKES SENSE” whenever somebody mentions the Borg on Twitter. @beinspace reacts to any mention of the word “space”, it seems but most of its reponses are non sequiturs with no real connection to the tweet they’re responding to. It does seem to respond to direct questions much as a classic bot does.

beinspace twitter bot screenshot

Do you know of any other interesting twitter bots, or research on them and their effect on online debates?

11 thoughts on “automated online debaters

  1. David Wagner

    Im sure you'll love this @MelasPJ RT @snurb_dot_info A Twitter bot responding to #climatechange deniers by posting facts http://t.co/i2RKrKb

  2. Martin Paulsen

    Thanks for this, Jill, it relates directly to my recent research on Ukrainian/Russian Twitter. In a study of the search word “Holodomor” I found that approx. 10% of the tweets were related to spamming, boting or trolling. Some of these accounts just repeated (rather than retweeted) things posted by others (I found several twin-accounts that posted exactly the same tweets simultaneously). Initially I saw this as “noise” in my material, but after some time I started to get interested in the phenomenon and have been looking for research on this. Havenít found anything yet, though.

    Today, a Ukrainian news site has a story about the use of trolling in Ukrainian political debates (http://korrespondent.net/ukraine/politics/1261030-korrespondent-politika-2-0-ukrainskie-politiki-massovo-idut-v-socseti can probably be read using Google translate). This has become a big industry where groups of 20-30 people get several thousand dollars a month to write the right kind of comments to political discussion forums on Ukrainian web sites. The editor of one of the most visited sites claims that as much as a third of the comments on his site (probably refers to the political material on the site) is written by such trolls. This, however, is mainly manual, not automated, work.

  3. David Carter

    Wow, cool. A Twitter bot which responds to #climatechange deniers by posting actual _facts_ at them: http://t.co/6oqSH4r

  4. MrTomTom

    Wow, cool. A Twitter bot which responds to #climatechange deniers by posting actual _facts_ at them: http://t.co/6oqSH4r

  5. Clutch

    Wow, cool. A Twitter bot which responds to #climatechange deniers by posting actual _facts_ at them: http://t.co/6oqSH4r

  6. Jeff

    Wow, cool. A Twitter bot which responds to #climatechange deniers by posting actual _facts_ at them: http://t.co/6oqSH4r

  7. qrtzcntrl

    Wow, cool. A Twitter bot which responds to #climatechange deniers by posting actual _facts_ at them: http://t.co/6oqSH4r

  8. Marilyn Sanders

    Wow, cool. A Twitter bot which responds to #climatechange deniers by posting actual _facts_ at them: http://t.co/6oqSH4r

  9. sebastian melo

    RT @snurb_dot_info: Wow, cool. A Twitter bot that responds to #climatechange deniers by posting actual _facts_ at them: http://t.co/DsW1eYn

  10. sabinesabine

    anti- #climatechange skeptic Twitter bot : http://t.co/ZZQOlAdl via @cgrltz @snurb_dot_info

  11. MEDEA, Malmö Univ.

    Automated online debaters on Twitter: deny climate change and you get a counter-argument http://t.co/NjGzA4oz

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