Living with Bots

Are you worried about bots, and spam accounts and fake accounts on the various social media platforms?

You could decide that this worry should be translated into some kind of eradication of the bots problem, but I want to argue that the opposite is true. We must welcome bots, and learn to live together with them in a peaceful and constructive coexistence.

It is definitely the case that on social media platforms there are a lot of accounts that do not necessarily correspond to a single human. For example, if an Internet of Things sensor uses Twitter in order to communicate the temperature, the humidity or whatever other parameter that it extracts from the environment, and someone else takes advantage of that value incorporating it in an application after it is publicly available on Twitter, is a completely automated non human account, which is certainly not spam or fake. So you can have those accounts that want to defraud, scam or trick people into doing something that at the end will harm them on one hand, and on the other hand there are those accounts that are very useful, even if they are bots.

What should we use? What should we decide? What should we keep the power towards? Can we expect each account to have an ID card to prove their human identity? And can we pretend that each human should only be able to do it once forever? I don’t think that it is reasonable to expect that we should do that, and those platforms that will try will find that it is either impossible or undesirable since the value that we will lose by imposing this is too large. On one hand, we must enable anonymous and pseudonymous participation on online platforms for many reasons, but on the other hand, it can be argued that the increase of non-human powered human-like accounts can be valuable, they can play a useful role as well.

I think every platform should ask themselves the same question: “Why are we prohibiting bots? Shouldn’t we allow them? And if we do, how should they behave on the platform after explicitly declaring their nature?” Let’s see if there will be platforms that understand that this is the future, because I assure you, every year that it passes, the number of bots is going to increase, potentially, and that is definitely going to be the case may be in a decade or two, eclipsing the number of humans and we should rather than feared future, prepare for it, embrace it, and understand how to thrive in it.