Meet the Maker of a Twitter Bot That Fools Humans

Do you think that all of your Twitter followers are human? Well, it used to be easy to spot "Bimbots," fake online accounts used in spamming or phishing attacks, but some Twitter bots are so difficult to spot that they've fooled a lot of people into thinking that they're talking to a real human being.

Meet Greg Marra, who built one such Twitter bot:

@Trackgirl was set up to infiltrate a group of runners. She would scour Twitter for messages with running-themed keywords and post them as if they were her own. Three times a day, she’d pick five people to follow, and she’d always follow back anybody who followed her. Because she seemed connected to the right people, @Trackgirl started to gain followers, who thought her cut-and-paste messages about the agony and the ecstasy of long-distance running were coming from a real person. One day, however, the Twitter bot posted a message saying that she’d hurt her ankle.

Soon after, her followers wanted to know if @trackgirl was on the mend. “People were sympathizing with a Python script,” says Marra, a Google+ product manager who spoke about his work at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference in Boston last week.

In a way, these Twitter bots have passed the Turing Test: Link (Photo: Robert McMillan/Wired)

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