Meet Liz (@arguetron). She just loves to argue. In fact, it’s all she ever does.
Every ten minutes she sends out a message on Twitter. Just a simple message. But the kind of simple message that is going to seriously wind someone, somewhere up.
You know the kind of thing:
Hot headed individuals take the bait and start arguing back – futilely. After all, Liz can argue for hours on end. She even argued with one person for TEN HOURS!!
So where does Liz get her inhuman levels of stamina? Simple; she isn’t human, she’s a bot. She just doesn’t care what you say to her and her arguing is not only meaningless, it goes on and on (so it fits right in on Twitter.)
Meet her creator
Sarah Nyberg @srhbutts created Liz, largely inspired by Nora Reed’s @ThinkPieceBot bot. Nyberg explains:
The bot is just like honey for internet jerks. They spend hours and hours yelling at it.
Her favorite interaction? Someone repeatedly attempting to sexually harass the bot, thinking it’s human:
Why Liz was born
In an interview with Engadget, Nyberg explained her motivation was not to engage in harassing behavior but to expose reactionaries and harassers.
She herself has been harassed for years, she says. Liz was, for her, the ultimate response. As she puts it:
I’d like the project to help people critically look at how toxic Twitter can be, especially for people expressing these kinds of opinions. That it also makes the people engaging in this sort of behavior looks ridiculous is a nice side effect.
After all, Liz is not designed to be abusive or malicious, or to seek out adversaries. It simply baits them with calm statements and then responds to their arguments with equally non-aggressive statements.
There’s nothing a bully hates more than a target they can’t wind up.
Nyberg told The Verge that it was important to her that the bot take the high road even when dealing with more vicious online personalities, saying:
It never confronts people, only replies, and doesn’t engage in any sort of bigotry or harassment as a response.
How Liz works
New York Magazine explains that @arguetron
…uses a combination of static statements and generative grammar … there are some [replies] specifically triggered through what are called regular expressions, but for the most part they’re just generic.
Nyberg did admit to the media company that her bot is programmed for a number of social issues including racism, feminism and transgender rights. She said:
It also baits conspiracy theorists (like vaccination truthers, for example) because they also spend an odd amount of time searching for people to fight with.
What we’ve learned
The security takeaway from @arguetron, if you somehow hadn’t got the message already, is that not everybody that you meet online is who they say they are!
More interesting than that though is what it reveals about how similar (and similarly futile) Twitter arguments are – almost content agnostic, as Nyberg puts it:
It doesn’t matter if you’re arguing about feminism, Julian Assange, Donald Trump, or some fun combo of the three, the bot’s replies can be effectively identical and the argument will still continue.
All the press coverage has taken the sting out of the project. People are now only largely tweeting the bot for fun. Those who have been made fools of are now lying low or, sadly, turning their attention back to Nyberg’s own personal Twitter account.
We can expect to see more from Nyberg. She professes to have something even more human-like up her sleeve. I can’t wait to find out what it is and what it reveals about us human beings…
12 comments on “Twitter bot baits bullies into meaningless and futile arguments”
“…and her arguing is not only meaningless, it goes on and on (so it fits right in on Twitter.)”
It’ll be interesting to watch when two bots find each other for an argument!
I can’t believe twitter would stoop to generating such noise.
I guess it benefits them to have endless activity somehow.
How do they define bullies? Just pick some current controversial topic and let twitter decide what the “right” side is? That’s good a social media company deciding; they are after all the best judge of right and wrong.
Hopefully, someone will write one that baits people With the opposite views of this bot writer, then they can have even more active (yet entirely pointless) traffic.
Well… this isn’t Twitter generating the traffic; it’s a bot. It’s been programmed to choose randomly from a palette of pseudo-inflammatory statements, and just sit there if no one replies. However it will respond when addressed directly.
This is analogous to physically being in a coffee shop or airport. I could stand there all day speaking to no one specific, “9/11 was an inside job.” If I’m ignored I wait for two minutes and then say “only fools believe the Earth is round.” I continue this until someone flares up, and then simply reply to whatever they say, but remain calm about it. Instead of deteriorating into a rage-based flame war, I make semi-random comments barely correlative enough to resemble continued conversation.
Most sane people would ignore my inane remarks anyway, so the conscience-cleaner is that I’m *only* wasting time for people who are already looking for an argument. The best part is that by remaining calm I get them even more riled because they know their insults don’t bother me.
While it’s true that there’s a bit of sneakiness to the baiting process, this is a thought experiment of sorts–and a wonderful one at that. I do have one correction however: The bot’s creator said it makes its adversaries look ridiculous
…but they do that on their own. 🙂
Does Liz have a Mother, Grandmother, Aunt called ELIZA. I remember many meaningless conversations on our Control Data Cyber mainframe long long ago. Long before computers were “personal” or “micro” or portable. Look her up in Wikipedia for the full history dating back to the 1960s.
Why leave a reply to this article when even the author is Alison Bot? 🙂
bah to the downvoters; this was clever and made me smile.
1st and 4th tweets encourage mental illnesses, 2nd tweet encourages bullying, and only 3rd tweet is normal but that is a terrible idea.
Maybe i’m not enough of a social media or cyber geek but reading through the twitter examples above, I don’t understand them, they do not make sense to me, but then again when I have read twitter posts in the past none of them make real sense, just a waste of good cyberspace if you ask me.
Matt, many folks use Twitter to spew random thoughts (called tweets) into the ether, and as it was designed to be a flurry of short messages, it doesn’t often resemble conversation as well as a Snapple lid–factual or helpful or otherwise. Some tweets garner enough attention to be mentioned elsewhere (websites, news outlets, et cetera), but most are relegated solely to Twitter.
Some users voraciously read messages from strangers while others simply use the medium as a cathartic one-way (semi-)communicative outlet, where a thought (not necessarily a thought-out thought) is immediately shared (inflicted?) and nearly as quickly forgotten, ready to move on to the next. Limited to 140 characters per tweet, it’s a dream come true in the attention-deficit 21st century.
No doubt you can imagine the appeal Twitter might offer to a solipsist, but certainly not all Twitter users are narcissistic and self-serving [this next section might be misconstrued as endorsement and find itself truncated or redacted, but I mean it with an enlightening slant]. Twitter is also a great way to share quick facts (@Learn_Things, @healthyfoodmag), hobbies & interests (@guitarist_mag, @NatGeoPhotos), cause a smile (@XplodingUnicorn), or even disseminate digital safety tips (@NakedSecurity).
Luckily (probably) as far as tweets wasting cyberspace… the space is theoretically unlimited, and as technology improves we’ll continually increase our capacity to create and retain more. This will allow us to preserve forever all the inspiration, advice, insults, cat videos, and detritus we have ever shared online, to which I have now added this comment.
I replied earlier to Jamie; that might help you also.
There are multiple twitter bots online that have been doing this for years…
and one more reason to never use twitter.
Ian Abot (I am not A bot)