The internet, for all it’s wonders, is also a place where not-so-great things happen — like harassment of various kinds. And, of course, there’s an industry for that.
ProPublica reporter Julia Angwin got firsthand experience after contributing to an article on how extremist websites make money. She, and several colleagues, were the targets of an “email bomb” — an attack where a program signs you up for thousands of email newsletters which then clog up your inbox. Not long after, Angwin experienced a second form of harassment — hundred of Twitter accounts who followed her overnight, and tweeted at her in concert.
Naturally, she and her team investigated the harassment and then wrote about it. They decided to start their own fake Twitter accounts, and found that buying into email or Twitter bots isn’t that hard — or expensive.
“We got for, I think about 100 bucks, we got about 15,000 tweets for our two different accounts,” said Angwin in an interview with Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal.
But for Angwin, the real issue lies not necessarily with the people selling Twitter bots, but with Twitter itself.
“I think the real issue here is that the platforms that are used to launch the attacks, they’re not the ones that suffer when you’re attacked,” said Angwin. “And so their incentive to prevent this type of attack is low.”
Click the audio player above to hear the full story.
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