The Bot Registration Act of 2017 Could Improve Twitter For Us Humans

This sounds like an X-Men storyline, but Twitter needs to ask all bot accounts to register as such & then badge. Bots can be very useful but users should know they’re following a bot & bots should follow certain ToS. Treat bots like a developer ecosystem, not like user accounts.

Twitter hasn’t been able to effectively police their bot ecosystem – I don’t know if it’s will (desire) or way (ability, prioritization) – but it seems that they’d want to understand what percentage of their activity is machine-driven versus accounts piloted by actual human beings. The company’s policy lead published some general “we take bots seriously” thoughts earlier this summer but the post doesn’t clarify whether Twitter believes bots should be identified in a consistent user-facing manner. One of my favorite Bot-ologists, Renee DiResta, also recently suggested that bot accounts be labeled with a robot emoji, or some similar demarcation in the name or bio. (In that article Renee also distinguished between Bots and Cyborgs, both automated accounts but where the latter spoofs human behavior).

So want to follow a bot which tweets whenever NYTimes Maggie Haberman publishes a new article? Awesome. Whenever USGS detects a big earthquake? Yes! Which combines two current news events into a single headline? I don’t, but you do you. These and many more wonders exist on Twitter, but without a Bot designation and Bot directory, who knows what the average user assumes. It also gives Twitter license to shut down Bots which don’t register and more easily monitor account behaviors. As it stands, who knows what percentage of Twitter accounts are bots and what impact these bots are having on user experience. Well, I guess we’re incrementally answering this question without Twitter’s help….