Protest movements could get a tech boost. Software can now comb social media to spread an activist group’s messages – even targeting the most receptive people

Activist bots recruit humans to their cause on Twitter

Recruited by a person? (Image: Carl Court/Getty Images)

PUT down your megaphone and pick up your smartphone. A program nicknamed Botivist rallies people to social causes via Twitter.

If you’re an activist, spreading your message to like-minded people can be tedious work, says Saiph Savage at West Virginia University in Morgantown. Bots can take those tasks off your plate. “You no longer have to invest time searching for people and trying to get them to do actions for you or with you,” she says.

In late April, Savage and her colleagues launched their automated activists into the Twittersphere. There were eight different bots, focused on one issue: corruption in Latin American governments. When Botivist spotted someone tweeting about the subject – perhaps mentioning “corrupción“, a bot would send them an inspirational quote or call to action.

The researchers’ goal was to see how good the different bots …

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