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Facebook Tighten Messenger Bot Regulations

When Facebook first revealed that they were adding bots to their Messenger platform, I think most of us all saw the same image inside our heads - a colossal pink, spongy tidal wave of spam. In their defense, it hasn't been too bad, mainly because bots cannot actively start conversations with people, they only speak when spoken to, but once that happens there's still a lot of scope for spam-flavored pestering.

Accordingly, Facebook have introduced a string of new Asimov-esque rules to help reign the bots in a bit more. Now, bots can only reply to users within a 24 hour window, and then one more time after that if the user doesn't respond. Users have to opt-in before subscription messaging, which itself is now only applicable to certain types of bot and all prospective bots must go through a 5 day approval process before going live.

If all that seems fairly obvious, it's because there were almost no rules regulating Messenger bots, and it's kind of amazing that Facebook were never taken to task about that. All I can guess is that nobody really figured out how best to exploit the system before now. Before, blocking was the only line of defense users had against bot spamming.

Had these rules not been introduced, there was a very real chance that within a few years Messenger could well have become a bot-ridden wasteland that you dared not log into for fear of immediately being overwhelmed with messages reminding you that you haven't bought a new pair of jeans in a while.

Remember that scene in Minority Report when Tom Cruise is walking through the subway station and every few steps his eyes are scanned, and a poster comes to life, addressing him by name and flogging a product? Yeah, basically that, but less flashy.

These rules account for a lot of those risks, but it's hard to say this early in the game what about bots will really get on users' nerves, so feedback is going to be key. A line needs to be found between an open system which allows companies to build bots with creative autonomy, and a system which doesn't just bug the crap out of people. It's a tall order, but if anyone is capable of delivering, it's Facebook.

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @Songbird_Callum

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Facebook Tighten Messenger Bot Regulations Reviewed by Unknown on Thursday, August 18, 2016 Rating: 5

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