Op-Ed: Your online political heroes are bots, not people

Posted Nov 2, 2017 by Paul Wallis
It’s well known, and admitted by Trump, that social media is the media that wins elections and influences opinions. The irony is that these influencers aren’t even people. They’re bots, and their opinions are software.
Twitter says it is testing a plan to expand tweets to up to 280 characters  double the existing limi...
Twitter says it is testing a plan to expand tweets to up to 280 characters, double the existing limit
Bots are basically fake by nature. They’re spammer technology, adapted to various uses. The realities of bots are well described in an article by Motherboard/Vice. Bots may or may not have people attached to them. Some do, but even the content is highly automated, basically macros and scripted comments.
For Twitter and Facebook, in particular, bots are trouble. The two social media monsters don’t like them, because they detract seriously from content quality, and create many problems in terms of their nasty habits. That, however, is just part of the vast tomb of issues created by bots.
The other big problem for the social media platforms is that users truly hate these disgusting spam posts. Threats, insane comments, nutcase conspiracies (as though anyone needs them), they’re all very negative user experiences.
Put it this way – Islamic State is a major user of social media doing the same thing as the bots, and very probably using bots of their own in many cases. A lot of “fanatical believers” are in fact software. Sound familiar?
Bots and politics
In the big Duhhh… Hyuck Fake Everything Aren’t We Geniuses factory formerly known as the United States, bots are also big business. They should be. The amount of money poured in to US politics in the last few years is huge, and a lot of it went on bots. This is huge money in play, and it’s an actual industry in its own right.
Bots drive the hate campaigns, the fanatical support, and the endless political spam which clutters up Facebook Twitter, and other social media every day. If there’s anything at all reassuring about that, it’s that even the clowns who produce this garbage aren’t dumb enough to do it themselves.
Like most trolls, they’re too lazy to do much but turn on the bots and do their monotonously scripted crap. (That’s why so many bots use basically the same phraseologies, which come from some fecal fountain of wisdom in New York, or a “think tank” (absurd expression) full of sycophants following party lines.
The result is a largely theatrical, bogus, horribly overdone, mass of data which is roughly the internet equivalent of dysentery. Not much of this stuff is actually read, and at least half of those who read it, hate it.
But – It gets through. It’s positive reinforcement for paranoid rednecks and obscure, nameless conservative politicians. It’s not really too surprising that people who are unfamiliar with social media would be more trusting than those who know their way around a bit better.
Bots produce the illusion of popularity, based on, well, no more than bots saying something is popular. Millions of non-existent people “like” these things. Political bots are loaded with psychographic materials, using similar expressions and agreeing with heavily researched Facebook and Twitter data which targets specific groups.
This is Big Data technology, and it delivers the information required to reach out to idiots and agree with them. It’s that sophisticated. It’s grass roots 100% BS, mass producing a range of fake information and spin.
How to fight back: Reverse engineering bots
Fighting back is likely to be the only real way to defeat the bots. The people who run bots don’t observe the laws. Like the other useless scum infesting the internet, hackers and trolls, to bot users, illegality isn’t an issue. Legal methods probably won’t do much but create theoretical, not actual, ways of stopping the bots.
There are ways, however, of fighting back effectively. Bots carry spam, and spam often carries malware. It can also carry disruptive (god how I loathe that word) software to hit back at the bots by reverse engineering them to attack their senders.
Consider a Denial of Service attack; If every bot generates 1000 messages sent back to its server (usually a proxy server or several proxies) it’d light up the botnets like a Christmas tree.
Another useful, if illegal, way of hitting back would be to use modified ransomware against bots at all levels. The only problem with that is that botnets often use people’s computers to generate their messages, and some innocent people could get hurt. The modified ransomware would have to be well targeted, to destroy the botnets’ ability to spread spam only.
Security against bots? You’re kidding.
You’d think all these self-righteous, Great Internet Security Saviours would be more interested, and a lot more effective, in stopping bots. They’re useless. Don’t expect much help from the utterly useless “internet security community” with bots. They’ve never done a damn thing about shutting down the bots, which are the typical source of every scam on Earth.
Years ago, I got a message from some gynaecological improbability claiming to be an internet security expert complaining about an article I wrote on DJ criticizing internet security failures. He said that internet security is great, noble and doing a fabulous job.
That’s the level of delusion, and genetic dishonesty, which is helping botnets fester around the world, funding crime, destroying democratic processes, and costing people billions. Bots promote the sale of useless internet security software, so the last thing likely to happen is any effort at all to shut them down by the industry.
Bot extermination
If social media wants to stop the bots, the best option is to get some real talent and do some serious research. The security vermin will have to conform. Bots and botnets do have a vast array of recognizable common elements. Finding them and tracing them shouldn’t be difficult at all, and certainly not as “impossible” as security makes out.
The situation is this:
The internet is the greatest communication capability ever. It’s a gigantic achievement with a lot of possible upsides. The idealists were right; the trouble is that as usual idealism and practical realities aren’t well acquainted.
It has been corrupted by criminals and their equally useless associates. These parasites need to be hit, hard, by an overwhelming display of tech they can’t match. Hit everything in them, from micro-routines to basic execution.
Finding new points of attack on the bots will also help in the cyber war against state espionage. What works on bots and botnets will probably work well on the Mousetrap-like networks used for cyberattacks.
When any type of tech negatively affects human life, that tech has to go. Never mind the collateral damage. The trolls can get other jobs, like social media consultants or executive dildos. It’s all they’re fit for, anyway.
Bots must be exterminated to extinction, not simply “countered”. It’s doable. There are any number of basic things and code which can do it right now. No excuses for failure need be considered.