Looking through my the list of my new online "friends," though, I noticed that these bots are quite sophisticated — their names, bios, and avatars seem real. It's only seeing them all together does it become apparent that the text of their Twitter bios is being generated by some algorithm.
Their machine-generated bios mimic the popular style of listing a bunch of different attributes about yourself between periods. A (real) example of this would be: "Mommy of 5. Conservative. Calvinist. Christian. Classical Homeschooler. Cloth diaper expert. And now Celiac." The bots apparently use a randomly generated mix of a handful of keywords like alcohol, coffee, maven, aficionado, geek, food, buff, passionate to create something almost uncannily real.
Real because they seem like the literally the most boring and insufferable people ever. The only thing that could make these botpeople more barfworthy would be if they included the phrase "RT do not mean endorsements" or "tweets are my own, not my employer's" in their bio.
Here are a few of the thousands following me:
Update:Jason Feifer, who has researched how Twitter bots get their profile photos, noticed that the example at the top of the page looked familiar. Indeed, it turns out to that "Kathline Bhamaraniya" stole the avatar of web designer Tevan Alexander. Just think - your face might be a bot right now! Even worse, there's a good chance it's following me on Twitter.
Katie Notopoulos is a senior editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Notopoulos writes about tech and internet culture is cohost of the Internet Explorer podcast.
Contact Katie Notopoulos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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