Our in-house Know-It-Alls answer questions about your interactions with technology.
Q: What is a bot?
A: It’s a sunny day outside, but you wouldn’t know it. You’ve been staring at the modern hellscape known as Twitter for hours now, refreshing feed after feed. Your eyes are glazed over but you keep going; you’re too deep into Politics Twitter to stop. That’s when you see her. Or maybe…it? The account’s handle is @DeplorableGranny4545. The profile picture is a slightly blurry selfie of a white woman who is maybe in her 60s, sporting a Make America Great Again hat and a duckface. Her bio is full of seemingly nonsensical hashtags, out of place punctuation marks, and, strangely enough, the phrase “Not A bOt!!” You take another sip of six-hour-old coffee and look closer. Over the last 3 days @DeplorableGranny4545 has tweeted nearly 2,000 times, averaging about 660 retweets and seven original tweets a day. Each one is about politics and includes a litany of hashtags and links popular with the far right. Is this a bot?, you wonder, trying to mentally calculate if would even be possible for a human being to accomplish that much in a day.
You’ve stumbled on a question that Twitter itself can’t quite figure out. Technically speaking, bots are automated programs designed to perform a specific task, like tweet every new word that appears in the New York Times, colorize black and white photos on Reddit, or connect you with a customer service agent.
Read more here: https://www.wired.com/story/the-know-it-alls-what-is-a-bot