I, Robot

08.12.134:24 PM ET

Flirting With Socialbots

New technologies make machines so human, they’re hard to spot online.

Research says Internet robots are on the rise: “socialbots,” as they’re called, will be responsible for about 10 percent of social activity that takes place online in two years’ time. New technology gives robots personalities, sleep-wake cycles, and the ability to do big things: attack an opinion group, promote an elected official, steal, flirt. They’re particularly present on Twitter, where socialbots that answer to all sorts of different organizations amass huge followings of unwitting humans, and on dating websites, where members can be duped into sending money to the cybermate they’ve fallen for. Soon we may be asking ourselves, “Is my new boyfriend human?”