SocialBots and Their Friends (book review)

This is my review for Media & Learning – May 2017 of the book “SocialBots and Their Friends – Digital Media and the Automation of Sociality”
Edited by Robert W. Gehl & Maria Bakrdjieva

“Bots are the new apps” said the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, in 2016. His vision about the way humans will interact with machine was “conversation as a platform”, in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) allow computers to be able to interact with people, using the most natural human interface, language.
Many users of the Internet are aware of bots: automated programs that work behind the scenes to come up with search suggestions, check the weather, filter emails, or clean up Wikipedia entries. More recently, a new software robot has been making its presence felt in social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter – the socialbot. This volume is one of the first academic collections to critically consider the socialbot.
Socialbots are programs that act on the basis of a fake identity within social media, where they try to influence opinion-making processes. The question as to how effective they are in manipulating opinions and whether and how law-makers should react to them has been a subject of quite some dispute among the authorities. Many aspects are discussed in the contributions contained in the book including mandatory registration for socialbots as well as an intensified engagement within media education in order to counter the potential manipulation of opinion. Furthermore many other scenarios are possible; what about having the assistance of one or more handsome socialbots as virtual influential Facebook friends who boost our social value by liking our picture or making cute comments on our status? ‘Socialbots and Their Friends: Digital Media and the Automation of Sociality’ is one of the first academic collections to critically consider the socialbot and tackle these pressing questions.
This book is published by Routledge, ISBN 978-1-1386-3940-9

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