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Police questioned this dude because his Twitter bot made a ‘death threat’

It's a classic tale of Bots Gone Wild.


Miles Klee


Posted on Feb 11, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 1:47 pm CDT

Artificial intelligence geeks always rant about whether it’s appropriate to ascribe “intent” to text randomized and repackaged by software. But no one else has time to address these psycholinguistic quandaries, until a Twitter bot threatens to kill someone and the police have to get involved.

When a bot owned by Amsterdam-based game developer Jeffry van der Goot appeared to make a death threat, the police paid him a visit at home.

van der Goot then had to explain to the police that the Twitter account simply remixed phrases he’d tweeted previously.

That the bot had tweeted the “threat” in an @-reply to another bot confused matters even more.

Fearing legal repercussions, Van der Goot remained mum on most other details of the incident. But he speculated that living in Europe makes all the difference in how online threats of violence are handled by authorities. 

The bot’s French creator, a student who goes by Wxcafé, was equally alarmed.







If we’re dealing with terrorist bots now, it’s just a matter of time till we see bot hitmen, bot bank robbers, and the dreaded bot mafia. Expect to see a bot-themed reboot of The Sopranos come 2016. 

Photo by archie4oz/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Feb 11, 2015, 2:37 pm CST