Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Online Robot Cleared in Illegal "Bush Bashing" Case

Robots can be partisan too...

From Going to the Mat:
Last week, the Federal Election Commission released documents related to MUR 5485 (pdf), a complaint lodged against Conversagent, Inc. The complaint alledged that a program known as a conversation robot, called SmarterChild, that children could use on AOL's Instant Messenger service, had been initially programmed to be a Kerry supporter in the 2004 election. According to a news article attached to the complaint, the program, created by Conversagent, Inc., iniitally responded to an input about George W. Bush by replying, "George W. Bush is way uncool." When the robot was asked why it thought Bush was "uncool" the system replied, "I have my reasons. I really, really don't like George Bush."
The complaint alleged that Conversagent made a contribution to the Kerry-Edwards campaign in violation of the ban on corporate contributions because it was advocating for Kerry.

Conversagent responded (pdf) that the conversation robot had been initially programmed to aggregate the opinions of users to form what appeared to be its own opinions. Intial users loaded the program with large number of pro-Kerry, anti-Bush messages that the robot began to use a "George Bush is uncool" message. After complaints, the company altered the programming to remain neutral with regard to the presidential candidates.

The FEC, based upon a recomendation from the General Counsel's office, dismissed the case (pdf) as a bona fide commercial activity and said that no further action need be taken in the case.

Going to the Mat: Robot Advocacy?


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home