Sessions at SXSW Interactive 2011 about Security and Social Media in Sheraton Austin Hotel at the Capitol

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Monday 14th March 2011

  • Geppetto's Army: Creating International Incidents with Twitter Bots

    by Greg Marra

    Twitter has proven to be an invaluable tool for communication during intense periods of political unrest and social suppression. When thousands of people tweet about oppressive regimes and violence against protesters, the outside world gets a chance to understand events on the ground.

    But what if none of those thousands of people were real, and the events never happened?

    Previous research has shown that Twitter bots can build up a following, garnering hundreds of emotionally invested followers who are fooled into believing the bots are real. A single puppetmaster could create hundreds of Twitter bots, letting them live perfectly normal and believable lives for months while they build up followers. Then one day, a careful crafted false story unfolds on the stage of social media, played out by a single director with hundreds of actors. Incidents like Balloon Boy demonstrate that powerful stories can become widespread before there is time for fact checking. Before anyone realizes all the TwitPics of the massacre are faked, the fake event will have made international headlines.

    This presentation will discuss the technical feasibility of such an attack on the global media infrastructure and discuss the implications of a news system that trusts "recent" over "reputable".

    LEVEL: Beginner

    At 9:30am to 10:30am, Monday 14th March

    In Creekside, Sheraton Austin Hotel at the Capitol

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