Did Science Fiction Predict the NSA Debate?

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The idea is that a corporation or government agency could influence public opinion by using computer programs to flood the social networks with comments.

In Cory Doctorow’s recent novel Homeland, a nefarious military contractor developed a persona management system called “Hearts and Minds” and used it to flood online conversations about a leaked surveillance program with dismissive comments [from bots].

There’s no evidence that anything similar has been happening in comment sections of articles about Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency leaks. But there are some signs that bots are joining in U.S. political debates. The same Times report notes that researchers at Indiana University discovered two Twitter accounts that sent out some 20,000 similar tweets, most of them linking or promoting the Web site of then-House Minority Leader John Boehner in the run-up to the last midterm elections.

–Andrea Peterson, On the Internet, no one knows you’re a bot. And that’s a problem.