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From Botometer, a tool created by Indiana University computer scientists to classify Twitter accounts, to Hamilton 68, a dashboard that tracks the conversations of hundreds of suspected bot accounts, there are cadres of investigators and academics tackling the problem.But Bhat and Phadte’s product is provocative by its very nature—the equivalent of crashing a party, and then calling the attendees a bunch of phonies.Menczer applauds the effort: “Even though they can hire a lot of good people, it’s not the same as engaging with a vast community that’s been thinking about this.
Bhat dove into building i OS apps, while Rohan built home robots that could shoot basketballs and launch frisbees.
But the very existence of their project raises an important question: If two volunteer data science students who are barely out of their teens can figure out how to hang out Twitter’s bad-actor bots, why doesn’t Twitter do the same?
Ro Bhat Labs—as Phadte and Bhat unofficially call their pairing—work in the same place they live: a bizarrely clean college apartment on a leafy Berkeley street.
Silicon Valley is only beginning to reckon with the proliferation of people trying to unhinge democracy by digital means.
On Twitter, that looks like networks of bots propagating fake news, dragging the level of political discussion into the sewer, and creating the illusion of widespread movements where there is none.