Robots

Robocallers Annoy Voters as US Election Approaches

Posted 23 Oct 2008 at 23:10 UTC by steve Share This

With a major US election approaching, nearly everyone in the US is receiving daily calls from automated systems, known as robocallers. In contested states, callers are receiving 10 to 15 calls per day. These unsolicited calls are the audio equivalent to spam and our politicians are the spammers. Politicians have exempted themselves from most laws that protect consumers from unsoliticted calls, such as the national do-not-call list. The only federal law that these robocall machines are subject to requires the delivered message to identify who initiated the call and include a telephone number or address to reach them. The worst phone spammer of this political season, John McCain, appears to be violating that law with his latest series of robotic negative campaign spam. While his campaign is setting new records for unethical behavior in this regard, he's certainly not alone. The Obama campaign and many other candidates from both parties are using robocall systems to saturate the phone networks with unwanted phone spam. One group is trying to fight these political spam bots by creating a political do-not-call list. Referring to these automated phone dialers as robots is probably overly generous for such primitive machines but robot is a word with a very fluid definition these days.


Huffpo, posted 24 Oct 2008 at 01:37 UTC by Rog-a-matic » (Master)

A source other than the Huffington post would be preferable since they have been so discredited this political season with stories like the Trig grandson story, Plumber Joe/Charles Keating story, among others. It might also help Robots.net from sliding into the Digg abyss.

Re: Huffpo, posted 24 Oct 2008 at 04:30 UTC by steve » (Master)

Yeah, I pretty much assume all those extreme right/left political pundits are lying, whether it's Huffington or Limbaugh. They're almost as bad as the politicians themselves these days. But the link in this case was just to the audio of the McCain phone message. If you're worried the Huffington folks edited or fabricated the audio, it's available on plenty of other sites including YouTube. Sounds like McCain (and possible Obama as well) are also running afoul of a Minnesota law that forbids prerecorded calls that aren't preceded by a human operator

Not sure what you mean about the Digg abyss - has Digg moved into politic commentary? Thought they were just a social bookmarking site?

Digg Abyss, posted 24 Oct 2008 at 13:44 UTC by Rog-a-matic » (Master)

I made up the term "Digg Abyss" to describe what has happened there, and gotten worse this political season. It's ruined the site. The juvenile geeky left has taken over with a never-ending stream of Huffpo, Dailykos and other postings, then used spam bots to digg the stories up. A posting positive of a republican or negative of a democrat can't usually make it to the front page. I'm starting to see some of this even on sites like PhysOrg.

Hey, maybe that SpamBot story is a candidate for robots.net! :)

Re: Digg Abyss, posted 24 Oct 2008 at 15:06 UTC by steve » (Master)

Ah, sorry, didn't think of the Digg front page, I never use it for anything. I guess several of the social bookmarking sites have a page that shows the popularity of the bookmarks. Reddit and del.icio.us have something similar.

Some people have always used bots to affect the results of unprotected popularity-based results (slashdot polls come to mind). On the other hand, even a properly working popularity contest such as the digg front page is going to reflect the viewpoints of the users. Since Obama is more popular online than McCain (more so than in meatspace I think), it's not surprising that any popularity-based results would reflect that in the selection of popular stories. While I don't doubt there are fake digg users voting for things, I'm not sure they're necessary to explain the results.

PhysOrg is physorg.com? I don't see any political stories at all. Are you just saying they promote stories based on user popularity and you think fake users are skewing the results? That's probably going to happen anywhere you have popularity-based results.

In any case, I don't think this problem can affect robots.net. Our stories aren't affected by their popularity with the users, so fake user accounts couldn't boost their popularity. Even if they could, the trust metric we use effectively prevents fake user accounts from becoming certified, so even if we ran a digg type site, a spammer wouldn't be able to affect the outcome by creating massive numbers of fake accounts.

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