In Today’s Times, Nick Bilton has a piece on novel uses of “bots,” or computer code that impersonates humans and mimics their activities on-line, titled “Friends, and Influence for Sale Online.” Here are a few paragraphs near the end of the piece. (It’s in the Financial Review; that’s my link).
“This is all about power and control, the same thing it’s always been, but now it’s digital and you can do a lot more of it,” said Rick Wesson, chief executive of Support Intelligence, a computer security consulting firm based in San Francisco.
For now, these bots are simply deceptive, tricking people into thinking something is popular or pushing an agenda. But as bots become more sophisticated, Mr Wesson said, they could become nastier.
In March, two students at the Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, created a swarm of bots that caused a phony traffic jam on Waze, the navigation software owned by Google.
The project, which was a class demonstration, was so sophisticated that the students were able to make bots that imitated Android mobile phones that accessed fake GPS signals and were operated by fake humans in fake cars. The Waze software, believing that the bots were on the road, started to redirect actual traffic down different streets, even though there was no traffic jam to avoid.
Where did the traffic diversion occur? Bilton doesn’t say.
FYI: Chris Christie might lose his job or aspirations, because of this kind of thing.
The Jerusalem Post also has a neutral reading of the story. The students have created a program that makes fake traffic jams. But it says this:
The students were able to simulate a traffic jam that lasted for hours on end causing motorists on Waze to deviate from their planned routes.