The Rise of Social Bots
Communications of the ACM 59 (7), 96-104, 2016
11 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2017 Last revised: 5 Jul 2017
Date Written: July 1, 2016
Bots (short for software robots) have been around since the early days of computers. One compelling example of bots is chatbots, algorithms designed to hold a conversation with a human, as envisioned by Alan Turing in the 1950s. The dream of designing a computer algorithm that passes the Turing test has driven artificial intelligence research for decades, as witnessed by initiatives like the Loebner Prize, awarding progress in natural language processing. Many things have changed since the early days of AI, when bots like Joseph Weizenbaum's ELIZA, mimicking a Rogerian psychotherapist, were developed as demonstrations or for delight.
Today, social media ecosystems populated by hundreds of millions of individuals present real incentives—including economic and political ones—to design algorithms that exhibit human-like behavior. Such ecosystems also raise the bar of the challenge, as they introduce new dimensions to emulate in addition to content, including the social network, temporal activity, diffusion patterns, and sentiment expression. A social bot is a computer algorithm that automatically produces content and interacts with humans on social media, trying to emulate and possibly alter their behavior. Social bots have inhabited social media platforms for the past few years.
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