How to Tell If You're Talking to a Bot

You get home from work, pull up your smartphone dating app and smile. Three solid responses from attractive prospects! Things are looking good. Except one question: Are they human? Your new love interest might be a bot. There have been stories of people who have carried on conversations with chatbots for days on end, only to slowly realize they are not talking with a real person. How is this possible? Chatbots, which are text-based robots that use artificial intelligence or specific programming rules to operate, are proliferating through dating, social media and messaging sites. They simulate conversation based on the queries they are presented with.

The Rise of Bots

Chatbots are only one form on online bots. A recent Incapsula study reported that over 61 percent of all traffic on the internet is now generated by bots. This number is way over the 21 percent reported in 2012. So-called "good bots" include search engines and other online tools; however, almost 30 percent of bot activity comes from "bad bots" made up of spammers, impersonators, hackers and site scrapers. The biggest increase among bad bots are impersonators, bots that try to take on a fake identity in some form. Their goal is to penetrate website security and wreak havoc once inside. There's a good chance you have interacted with a bot if you have enlisted the help of online chat when seeking the answer to a technical question about a product or service. Many service departments provide a chat function that allows you to type in your question or complaint. You may have believed you were talking with Ted, a friendly and qualified service technician, but the reality is you were likely speaking to a bot.

Looking for Love

Bots are extremely common on dating sites. You are more likely to encounter them if you are a man looking for a woman. This is because the sites need to give the appearance that the balance of men and women is more equal than it actually is to help keep members engaged and involved. In fact, some bot creators intentionally target sites like Tinder because of their huge traffic numbers. Bots fit into that environment naturally because they can interact with many profiles at once, generating lots of matches quickly.

Pattern Matching

Chatbots work with a system called "pattern matching" to determine which response they select. With a little detective work, you can find out if you are talking to a bot. Look for these chatbot quirks:
  • They want you to click a questionable link. Adult entertainment and gaming sites are most common.
  • They answer in full sentences. Most people don't type complete sentences online. Humans tend to type short phrases full of filler words and weird spelling.
  • They can't follow random conversation changes. Humans have short attention spans, and conversations tend to wander all over the place.
  • They can't express coherent ideas. Many times bots will pretend they are from a foreign country to cover problems they have with grammar, cultural context, in-depth ideas or other conversational difficulties.
  • They answer very quickly. Humans tend to react slowly, or they are simply not online when a message is sent. Bots answer very quickly without a long delay. If you get a long, involved message the first time you interact with someone online, it's a red flag.
Chatbots are here to stay and are expected to increase in the next few years. Facebook, for example, has committed to deploying a variety of chatbots on Facebook Messenger. They include weather bots, prayer request bots, physical training bots, joke bots and book recommendation bots. You may not be talking to a human, but if it gives you an accurate weather forecast, you may welcome a chatbot over the inaccurate prognostications of your local TV weatherman. For more information, contact us today or visit our website.

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