A Reporter Built a Bot To Find Nazi Sock Puppet Accounts. Twitter Banned the Bot and Kept the Nazis

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Yair Rosenberg, writing for the New York Times:I asked my own Twitter followers whether it might be possible to create a bot that would reply to these impostors and expose their true nature to any users they tried to fool. Neal Chandra, a talented developer in San Francisco whom I've never met, replied, "I can try to throw something together this evening." And so, after a week of testing, Impostor Buster was born. Using a crowdsourced database of impersonator accounts, carefully curated by us to avoid any false positives, the bot patrolled Twitter and interjected whenever impostors tried to insinuate themselves into a discussion (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled). Within days, our golem for the digital age had become a runaway success, garnering thousands of followers and numerous press write-ups. Most important, we received countless thank-yous from alerted would-be victims. The impersonator trolls seethed. Some tried changing their user names to evade the bot (it didn't work). Others simply reverted to their openly neo-Nazi personas. A few even tried to impersonate the bot, which was vastly preferable from our perspective and rather amusing. Twitter sided with the Nazis. In April, the service suspended Impostor Buster without explanation and reinstated it only after being contacted by the ADL's cyber-hate team. Over the next few months, we fine-tuned the bot to reduce its tweets and avoid tripping any of Twitter's alarms. As the trolls continued to report the bot to no avail, we thought the problem was resolved. But we were wrong. This month, Twitter suspended the bot again, and this time refused to revive it.

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