Meet Liz – perhaps the most controversial Twitter user
Liz – handle @arguetron – just loves to argue on Twitter.
From everything to climate change to feminism, from Donald Trump to Julian Assange. Think of any controversial subject, and Liz has an opinion. And she’s not afraid to share it through a series of tweets that she posts every 10 minutes or so.
Tweets, just like these –
Liz isn’t aggressive. She isn’t malicious. She doesn’t engage in harassment. She doesn’t get heated. She doesn’t use curse words. But she can argue. For hours.
But there’s something not right with Liz… something we can’t quite put our finger on… something, almost… inhuman…
Well, Liz isn’t a human. She’s not real. In fact, she’s a computer, who may very well have a good chance of completing the famous Turing Test. She’s a Twitter bot (not the first, not the last) that uses an extensive library of statements and responses to bait a specific set of Twitter users into arguing with her.
Naturally, those Twitter users spending many of their computer hours arguing with Liz have no idea whatsoever they’re wasting their time on a robot. A robot that has no real capability of digesting their arguments or – as is often the case – abusive rants.
Liz is the creation of Sarah Nyberg, who was recently at the business end of an organised social media hate campaign relating to the 2014 “Gamergate” controversy that targeted a number of women involved in the video game culture.
Nyberg has said that the objective of Liz is to highlight the effects and consequences that social media sites like Twitter have concerning the subject of trolling, and online harassment. She puts it like this –
“I’d like the project to help people critically look at how toxic Twitter can be, especially for people expressing these kinds of opinions. That it also makes the people engaging in this sort of behavior looks ridiculous is a nice side effect.”
Perhaps what is most revealing is the simplicity of how Liz works and how – despite that simplicity – Liz still manages to fool so many other human Twitter users.
It works like this… Liz tweets an opinionated statement – every 10 minutes or so – that is likely to bait a certain number of other users into responding. From there, Liz essentially replies to any counter-tweets with completely generic responses that could fit into practically any Twitter argument ever – responses like “prove it to me”, “nope. wrong. wrong. wrong.” and “I’d be rooting for you if I liked being wrong.”
Those non-confrontational, almost passive aggressive responses seem to be more than enough to carry on the various “debates”, with many Twitter users soon becoming confrontational, aggressive, or sometimes just exasperated.
While Nyberg may be trying to highlight the potentially toxic consequences of Twitter debates, she’s also demonstrating the utter futility of them too. If Liz – a bot who posts content-generic replies – can fool humans and bait them into hours-long arguments, is there really any point to any of it?
Of course there is an element of mockery too. Even a cursory glance at the tweets published by Liz show that they are generally left-leaning, meaning Liz is designed to bait many who fall on the right-wing side of many issues. This includes users who believe climate change is a hoax, those who oppose feminism or gay marriage and – of course – Liz makes some digs at Fox News and the NRA.
Nyberg says –
“It also baits conspiracy theorists (like vaccination truthers, for example) because they also spend an odd amount of time searching for people to fight with.”
The media coverage of Liz now means most know that she’s just a bot, and her successful “hit rate” when it comes to baiting users into arguments has taken somewhat of a dive, but you can visit her history to uncover some pretty amusing “debates”.
Source: C. Charles