Many of us have encountered various “bots” in chat and other environments online for years. However, their behavior is apparently improving to the point where we are able to be more easily gamed by them. New Scientist reports on Socialbot use on Twitter (via SBS World News Australia):
Over a two-week period, the three “socialbots” were able to integrate themselves into the group, and gained close to 250 followers between them. They received more than 240 responses to the tweets they sent.
This effort was in fact part of Socialbots 2011, a competition designed to test whether bots can be used to alter the structure of a social network.
Each team had a Twitter account controlled by a socialbot. Like regular human users, the bot could follow other Twitter users and send messages. Bots were rewarded for the number of followers they amassed and the number of responses their tweets generated.
…The military may already be onto the idea. Officials at US Central Command (Centcom), which oversees military activities in the Middle East and central Asia, issued a request last June for an “online persona management service”. The details of the request suggest that the military want to create and control 50 fictitious online identities who appear to be real people from Afghanistan and Iraq. (Full Article)
Though this doesn’t yet represent any particularly unprecedented technology, this could still have repercussions for the future of integrated and interactive gaming formats such as transmedia. (Speaking of “gaming.”)