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IBM’s supercomputer reveals which celebrities tweet like angry robot trolls

I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.


Aaron Sankin

Internet Culture

Posted on Oct 29, 2016   Updated on May 25, 2021, 4:54 pm CDT

IBM has used Watson to forecast the weatherteach people how to cook, and crush puny Ken Jennings at Jeopardy. Earlier this week, IBM rolled out its most worthless application of its artificial intelligence program yet.

The website Your Celebrity Match allows users to enter any Twitter handle and see whose celebrity Twitter account is the most like it. On a scale of the social value of Watson’s applications, picking out celebrity social media doppelgängers sits on the opposite end of the spectrum as assisting the state of California with its water conservation efforts.

But it does help identify who tweets like a trolling robot.

One of the most interesting new phenomena on Twitter is the development of bots designed to act as honeypots for assholes. As Twitter struggles to deal with its harassment problem, a group of bot-makers has taken matters into their own hands by building Twitter bots that tweet out statements designed to attract the attention of trolls looking for a fight. When one of those trolls engages with an argument bot, the bot replies in kind with an aggressive tweet. People have spent days endlessly arguing with Twitter accounts they had no idea were manned by nothing but a few lines of code.

When a troll is distracted by a battle with a bot, that’s time they aren’t spending spewing harassment as actual people. The only reason these bots manage to trick anybody into thinking they’re real is that they come with an air of verisimilitude. People do actually tweet like this and, as supermarket tabloids have asserted for generations, celebrities are people too.

The Daily Dot plugged in a bunch of argumentative Twitter bots into Your Celebrity Match to find out which famous people tweet like the ornery robots just looking for a fight.

The most famous bot in this family is likely @argutron. Given the name “Liz” by creator Sarah Nyberg—a decision meant to draw in mansplainers —@argutron is designed to bait alt-right conservatives.

When the bot finds antagonists willing to battle it tweet-for-tweet, the result is like watching a puppy try to fight its own reflection in a mirror, which is hilarious.

According to Watson, @arguetron most closely resembles former Saturday Night Live comedian and Joe Dirt star David Spade.

@christianmom18 is an argument bot created by botmaker extraordinaire Nora Reed. Reed is also responsible for Twitter bots like Thinkpiece Bot, which briefly took over the Daily Dot’s newsroom late last year, and another bot that transformed the 2016 election into a Pokémon battle.

While @arguetron tweets in the voice of the feminist killjoy haunting the alt-right’s nightmares, @christianmom18 is, to quote the account’s profile, “just a christian dental hygienist here to save souls.”

Here’s what it looks like when @christianmom18 ensnares a victim:

Reed has another bot, @LUVTHATSAVIOR, which tweets based on the same set of instructions as @christianmom18, but does so in all-caps.

Watson sees a close similarity between the curious and relatively “easy going” tweets of both @christianmom18 and @LUVTHATSAVIOR and the enormously influential Twitter account former Star Trek actor George Takei.

Reed has another pair of other bots that function similarly. One, which goes by the handle @good_opinions, purports to be “a woman online” and the other, @opinions_good, claims to be “a man online.”

Reed told the Daily Dot her favorite interactions generated by these two bots are when they enter into arguments with people who sincerely think the Earth is flat. Yes, this is a thing people still believe. Really.

This debate with a supporter of Libertarian presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson, which momentarily veered into a sincere discussion about both parties’ emotional states, is also a standout.

“All four [of my argument bots] have a stock of 18 responses,” Reed explained, “the ones for atheist-baiting are pretty prayer and bible focused, the opinions ones are more argumentative. Additionally, the atheist-baiting ones will occasionally ‘correct’ people who say ‘your’ and ‘you’re’, whether or not they are using it properly.”

Watson determined that both @good_opinions and @opinions_good are most like comedian Patton Oswalt.

@assbott was imbued by its creator with a single, noble mission. Every time 2016 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump tweets, @assbott would inform his followers that it would advisable if he deleted his account, which would, unsurprisingly, draw the ire of many of Trump’s fans.

@assbott tweets under the name Pissball Crank and uses an avatar of a guy with a giant baseball for a head. The name and picture are references to the Twitter account of conservative pundit Dan McLaughin, who has become a meme among people who tweet at the intersection of Weird Twitter and ultra-liberal Twitter.

Watson analysis reveals that @assbott’s celebrity Twitter doppelgänger is, for some inexplicable reason, actor Dax Shepard.

Your Celebrity Match doesn’t only compare regular people to their (superior in every measurable way, solely due to the nature of their greater notoriety) celebrity doppelgängers. It also finds matches based on “needs” and “values.” For @assbot, “needs” matched it up with comic Daniel Tosh and “values” aligned with Gene Simmons of KISS.

Your Celebrity Match

Of all the matches between bots and celebrities, Tosh’s needs and Simmons’s values aligning with @assbott are the two that honestly make the most sense.

Not every bot that interacts with the public needs to have endless arguments as its ultimate goal. Olivia Taters, for example, is a Twitter bot created by programmer Rob Dubbin.

“The bot works by manipulating adverb phrases. It started out with adverbs like ‘literally’ and ‘truly.’ It searches the Twitter firehose for people using those adverbs with ‘to be’ verbs,” Dubbin once told the Daily Dot. “When it finds two of them, it basically swaps the front of one sentence for the back of another. So, you could have ‘Hillary Clinton would totally win in 2016’ or ‘That hamburger was totally the greatest I’ve ever had.’ It would say ‘Hillary Clinton was totally the greatest I’ve ever had’ or ‘That hamburger would totally win in 2016.’”

The result, as it turned out, was something that sounded a lot like a psychotic teenager.

Taters would respond to people who tweeted at it, but it wasn’t intentionally aggressive. Naturally, the Daily Dot asked for Taters’s indispensable political wisdom in the run-up to the 2014 mid-term elections.

When entered into Your Celebrity Match, Watson proclaimed Taters to be the most similar to Russell Brand—a British comedian who gradually transformed from a rock star-esque shock jock into the living embodiment of a Che Guevara T-shirt lying crumpled in the corner of a college dorm room.

We can all rest a little better knowing that bit of Twitter triva. Thanks, Watson. That’ll be all. 

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*First Published: Oct 29, 2016, 8:00 am CDT