Beware the Bots: Student Journalism Project Exposes the Robots Among Us

 

Bot or Not explains how it knew there were humans behind The New School's Twitter feed.

The web is abuzz with Bot or Not, a project by journalism students at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts to call out the automated Twitter feeds hiding among us. The project was developed in the Investigative Journalism in the Digital Age course at Lang, which was taught by two veteran journalists: WNYC’s John Keefe and The New York Times’ Aron Pilhofer. The students spent the fall 2011 semester researching the tweet patterns of social media news stories, and identified some commonalities among feeds manned by humans and feeds manned by robots.

When you enter a twitter username into the site, Bot or Not scans your tweet history for signs of human interaction (hint: .@ tweets are a clear indication of humanity). The program then instantly renders its verdict: you are a robot, or you are a human (or, something in between, as the Atlantic’s tech feed discovered).

How accurate is it? When we ran the test on @TheNewSchool, the program correctly identified that our feed has real humans at the helm. Which leaves only one question: Are you a bot or not?