Do you ever feel like you’re talking to a wall? If you’ve encountered any one of these pro-liberal activist bots trolling the trolls on Twitter, you probably were.
Twitter bots, such as @arguetron, @opinions_good and @good_opinions, have been quietly engaging with the internet’s seediest subculture. At a time when online public discourse invariably slips into a full-blown war of words, these do-gooder programs have stepped in to take one for the team.
Well-versed in internet bigotry, they dole out simple, but contentious, statements to grab the eyeballs of transphobic, anti-feminist, pro-Trump and the crème de la crème of 4chan trolls. The bait is almost too irresistible and many have found themselves arguing for hours — and in one case, 10 hours!
this infowars egg is the record holder— Sarah Nyberg (@srhbutts) October 6, 2016
it argued with the bot for... almost TEN HOURS. yes, really. pic.twitter.com/DiQdNd8azw
The slyly named @good_opinions and @opinions_good bots are the work of Nora Reed, an Albuquerque-based activist and artist. Inspired by Reed’s work, Sarah Nyberg built @arguetron. Their bots tweet progressive opinions and then lie in wait to be discovered by the platform’s cornucopia of bigots itching for a fight.
“The project was inspired largely by the responses to my other bots and my experiences with Twitter in general,” Reed was quoted as saying by The Washington Post.
seriously, the bot is just like honey for internet jerks— Sarah Nyberg (@srhbutts) October 6, 2016
they spend hours and hours yelling at it pic.twitter.com/y8igW3osm7
“I care a lot about making sure the bot behaves ethically, since Twitter’s already a hellhole I definitely didn’t want to contribute to making it worse in any way,” Nyberg told Gizmodo.
At the core of the ethics of these bots is — they never make the first move. They will only respond when someone tweets at them. And people do, in earnest.
Whether or not these bots solve a problem, what they have definitely done is shown how eager people are to get into fights on the internet. The bots don’t have a huge number of followers and don’t use any hashtags — it means that those getting riled up by the statements likely were seeking out targets to attack by searching controversial terms on social media.
These bots aren’t perfect, and most of the conversations are dull, at best. But every once in a while, an extraordinary debate ensues that boggles the mind.