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Arguetron Trades Barbs with Frothing Twitter Trolls So We Don't Have to

Sometimes I wish that someone could just develop a kind of pied piper-esque spell which would lure all the outspoken trolls off of Twitter and towards somewhere where they would be more welcome, like the La Brea Tar Pits, or the inside of a neutron star.

Sadly, no such spell exists, and it seems like, for all of Twitter's good qualities, it's stuck with them. The best advice for dealing with trolls is, as many people will tell you, ignore them. If you engage with a troll, you're just feeding it, but if you found a way to create a feedback loop that leaves one arguing with itself, you would probably deserve a Nobel Prize.

That's what 'Arguetron' is for, it's a Twitterbot developed by Sarah Nyberg with one purpose and one purpose alone - to bait trolls. Once every 10 minutes, it will tweet something which would generally be regarded as progressive, and the exact kind of thing that trolls, especially of the alt-right persuasion, love to jump on. 

Said trolls then respond, Arguetron argues back, and it keeps going back and forth until the aggressor either gives up, gets bored or realises that they're squabbling with a machine and slinks away in embarrassment. It wasn't specifically designed as a troll counter-measure, more a way of highlighting how stupid it is to behave in such a reactionary way online, but given that most reactionary types are indeed trolls, the two things end up tying in.

It's far from perfect, Arguetron is hardwired to respond aggressively to pretty much everything, which leads to situations where people tweet it saying 'hello' and get 'sounds like something someone from TumblrInAction would say' as a response. That's to be expected, though, and when it does work, it's amazing, as some of the exchanges end up being so long you could practically novelise them. 

Nyberg herself used to be a frequenter of the 4Chan imageboards, a ghastly hellpit where people basically learned how to be as horrible as humanly possible online and then took all their newfound skills out into the wider world. When GamerGate kicked off, she was very vocal about how ridiculous and disgusting it all was, and as a result, she was doxxed, and she ultimately responded by publishing an article under her own name on Ravishly.

This took guts, especially given the extent of the harassment that Nyberg and others like her recieved during GamerGate, from death threats to encouragements of suicide to Swatting (look it up, seethe with rage). Nyberg clearly learned a lot from the experience, and with Arguetron, she made sure that everything it said and did was inoffensive, that it never struck the first blow and that it never attempted to defame a public figure.

It's still aggressive, but it uses factual information to argue, rather than bile. Trolls love to disagree with provable facts, since this is the internet and any source material you provide can just be met with the blanket 'this is clearly biased' response. 

What's really amazing, and telling, is how many people simply fail to figure out that what they're arguing with isn't human. This is probably the best example, a short excerpt of an exchange which went on for more than 10 hours. Equally fun is the near endless loop Arguebot has been caught in with Concedebot, who was seemingly designed to just want to have a nice chat. You couldn't make it up.

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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Arguetron Trades Barbs with Frothing Twitter Trolls So We Don't Have to Reviewed by Unknown on Thursday, October 13, 2016 Rating: 5

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