Discussion: Can one person controlling an identity, or group of identities, really shape social architecture? Apparently, yes. Web Ecology Project recently organized a two-week social-engineering experiment to determine if it is possible to not only infiltrate social networks, but also to influence them on a large scale. Three teams created “social bots,” or fake identities, to mimic human conversation on Twitter in order to pick up real users. The analysis: social bots can reach thousands of people and obtain a trove of personal information about their lives, allowing for more-targeted social ‘hacks’ than ever before.
Date: May 2011
Questions for discussion:
- Is an expectation of privacy in online social media unrealistic? Do we simply have to accept the fact that our personal data will possibly be collected if we chose to share it on the web?
- Hwang believes there is equally potential for good as there is for evil with social bots. Is online deceit acceptable if it brings together pro-democracy activists or promotes healthy habits?