This Mobile Company’s Twitter Account Tried to Help a Robot. For Hours.

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Information security expert Chris Eng has an “ebooks” bot on Twitter, a kind of alter ego that analyzes the text of his tweets and uses the patterns it finds to automatically spit out new tweets that sound like him. The trope is named after horse_ebooks, the first well-known nonsensical Twitter bot, and although it’s no longer operational, it started a phenomenon. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ebooks bots on Twitter now. But nobody told that to the unfortunate humans working Twitter support for Samsung.

Bots pretty much run themselves, with very little human observation required. When Eng decided to check on his bot this week, he discovered that something strange had happened:

Someone on Samsung’s Twitter support team had read one of the bot’s pseudo-random tweets, “Battery life on Galaxy S4?” as a request for help, and immediately sprang into action. The bot talked back, nonsensically, but Samsung’s tweeters were determined to keep trying until they could close their support ticket.

Around and around they went:

Did Samsung support not realize they were talking to a bot? Had chris_ebooks gotten itself on to a list of people to help, with no hope of getting off? Or does networked capitalism make bots of us all?

These are all fair questions, considering that the bot’s Twitter bio is entirely unambiguous: “I am a Markov Chain bot (i.e. these tweets are generated automatically by a computer program). In other words, do not take me seriously.” Looks like no one at Samsung caught that last part.