I'm Not a Real Friend, But I Play One on the Internet

Presented at HOPE Number Nine (2012), July 14, 2012, 10 a.m. (60 minutes)

This talk examines the topic of socialbots - realistic, automated bot identities online that are optimized to reliably elicit certain types of social behaviors in groups of users on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Deployed en masse, large swarms of these bots are able to subtly (and not-so-subtly) shape the ways in which communities grow, connect, and behave on these platforms. Insofar as people increasingly come to rely on these networks into the future, the bots hold the promise (and threat) of shaping not only the social universe of opinions and influence, but real world coordination and action among people as well. Ultimately, this talk will conclude by discussing how these bots suggest the evolution of classic social engineering into a broader social hacking - which approaches human networks as if they were computer networks and applies similar principles for their compromise and defense against the social influence of third parties.


  • Tim Hwang
    Tim Hwang is chief scientist at the Pacific Social Architecting Corporation, a Bay Area research and development house focusing on technologies to enable precise, large scale social shaping online. He is also the founder of ROFLCon, a series of conferences that bring together Internet celebrities, commentators, and scholars to talk about memes, Internet culture, and funny cats on the web. In the past, he has worked with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Creative Commons, and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. He is an avid collector of Sky Mall magazine.


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