Over the past few months, I’ve been making a handful of “honeybots”– bots that act as a honeypot for Twitter troll. There are a lot of people on Twitter who search for specific terms and then yell at people who mention them; they go on about topics that range from chemtrails and the flat earth to various alt-right people with cult followings to atheism. A handful of bullies particularly like to search for people who mention them negatively and then retweet those people to their followers, leading a harassment mob to their virtual door.
I’ve been documenting these on a Tumblr blog, and they caught the attention of the Washington Post, among other places. Sarah Nyberg made an advanced, improved honeybot that is even better at catching trolls and wasting their time than mine. It’s been a fun couple weeks for automatically wasting the time of assholes.
One of the groups of people who have been really easy to bait and really plentiful are “internet atheists”. If you’ve spent much time adjacent to the atheist community, you’ve probably run into these– their identity revolves around their atheism; they generally hate religion of all stripes, and they roam the wilds of the web trying to pick fights with people. They tend to have a personal philosophy that revolves around the idea of skepticism, but aren’t very good at embracing its principles themselves– they tend to have “scientific” justifications for all of their personal biases and often express a good deal of transphobia, racism and misogyny.
What these people seem to like more than anything else is to fight their idea of “theists” without actually having to engage in ideas. They want a straw Christian to use as a punching bag. So I made them one.
Enter @christianmom18, AKA “carol”.
Carol is a bit of an improvement on @good_opinions and @opinions_good. She has a lot more basic things to say as “bait”, and I made her reply occasionally with those instead of just with the 17 “argument” phrases– “you are wrong”, “check the bible”, “no”, etc. I also gave her a chance of “correcting” with “*your” anytime someone said “you’re” and vice versa, regardless of whether or not they were using the word correctly. (Another great Sarah idea.) I also set her up to auto-retweet some Bible quotes accounts and the official accounts of both Kellogg’s cereals and the New York Yankees.
I got some help from Sarah and some of my gaming friends to come up with this stuff and had “carol” stick emoji and random punctuation on the end of the phrases so that they didn’t get caught by Twitter as duplicates, and practically immediately started getting bites.
A lot of these accounts are people who spend a lot of time searching Twitter for terms like “atheists” to find people to dunk on, and they often follow each other, so “carol”‘s posts quickly spread among that network, and people started talking to her.
That’s just the beginning. Richy went on to talk to “her” for about three hours— through several repetitions of her “arguments”.
Some people figured out that she was a troll, but not that she was a bot.
Carol’s maturity was called into question.
She was insulted:
And this is just the beginning. After this, “carol” was quote tweeted by a popular atheist account that seems mostly to spend time dunking on theists, and her followers came in droves.
By this point, Twitter’s automated system had shadowbanned “carol”, so her posts weren’t showing up in Twitter search results– all the people talking to her found her via other people’s retweets, quote tweets and conversations. So I got some help from friends to come up with really wacky things to say.