Influence Business Reputation Risk…BOTS!

Imagine, if you will, how the following contributes to…elevating – exacerbating reputation risks to adversely affect your business or company at the speed of a keystroke, that is, the intangible products of manufactured news.

I suspect few would (or, should) be surprised today to…learn that it is possible, perhaps probable, to influence people’s perspectives – opinions about a particular-issue overtime by, among other ways, manufacturing events or actions online which have been simulated, highly embellished and/or exaggerated, but, present same as being legitimate.

Of course, some may argue ‘what’s the big deal’, after all, isn’t this similar to…the objectives of legitimate – schooled marketing and advertising initiatives, albeit with some oversight, designed – intended to achieve, on behalf of an employer, client, or product-service provider?  They seek to influence (usually targeted or, already receptive) audiences, i.e., prospective consumers, to believe (a.) a need exists, and ultimately (b.) create a demand where perhaps little or none previously existed?

Technological – consumer centric advancements in this arena are…clearly and often exasperatingly evident via any online shopping experiences-processes that reflect the manner-in-which consumers repetitively browse, at will, for products, brands, and/or services with same being tracked and monitored to persistently produce pop-up advertisements. 

  • Presumably, the role of the ‘pop-ups’ is to keep the products we are seeking or which have drawn our (online) attention to ‘eyes on’.  All, of course, is uniquely aligned with our online search behaviors, which are collectively interpreted as constituting a prospective buyer – consumer.

Insofar as one’s political – sociological ideologies are concerned...similar assumptions and proclivities also appear to be in play. For example, in ideological contexts, once a ‘consumer’ has achieved some level of ‘buy in’, a presumption – probability exists they will become progressively assertive – receptive to seeking, perhaps exclusively, views, perspectives, and opinions (online) which resonate even further.

Similarly, it should come as no surprise that there are…various technologies and methodologies practiced – in place globally, that distinguish and appeal to aspects of specific political – ideological – personality inclinations, upon which purveyors of manufactured information endeavor to build on and exploit in furtherance of whatever advantage is being sought.

From a business perspective, appealing directly to…prospective clients, buyers, consumers, etc., personality baselines, that is, presenting information in contexts intended to expose and presumably heighten and expand already present personality – ideological leanings to previously unaware levels.

Proponents of this ‘magic’ rather routinely argue they are not about, nor are they intended to…manipulate people’s likes, dislikes, or inclinations which do not already exist. Rather, proponents argue, it is merely a matter of presenting ‘things – issues’ in a manner and in contexts that resonate with certain segments of a population which are already hold inclinations to do so anyway.

Again, it should come as no surprise that…at various, often individualized, points along the proverbial persuasion continuum, how, if, or when information is presented, it can influence – spark even more ideological distinctions, ala polarization.

Good examples of this emerge from the analysis of cellphone usage…which suggest once a specific (targeted) user of a cellphone brand, who possess personality characteristics associated with introversion, desire to keep their cellphone in-close-proximity at all times, may consider it as a personal safety – security device, in addition to a means for constant at will communication.

Whereas cellphone users exhibiting personality characteristics associated with extroversion…may be inclined to keep their cellphone close because it can keep them aware of – lead them to real time events – activities which they may want to participate and seek inclusion.

These examples, in my view, reinforce a curiosity about whether people are – can become receptive to…some manner-level of personality manipulation? In other words, when a topic-subject is framed, contextualized, or manufactured to address known views-opinions (personalities), some of which perhaps exist ‘under a person’s radar’, those individuals may be influenced to accommodate (internalize) the interests being conveyed, irrespective of – without regard for its voracity, legitimacy, or scientific evidence to the contrary.

Herein lies, what appears to be a seamless segue – entrée for applying ‘political – ideological bots’...which are precision engineered algorithms. In this instance, bot algorithms are designed to scour – mine the Internet for current events and activities along with (relevant) descriptive language and phrasing.

One feature of a bot is, they can assess how an event and  its associated descriptive language may be manipulated –  repurposed to…masquerade as real acts, behaviors, or event to reflect – accommodate particular and/or targeted ideologies and inclinations, i.e., through the bots automated and pre-determined communications, of course…

  • bots cannot achieve this absent purposeful human input, i.e., writing algorithmic codes to collect data and achieve whatever ends are intended – sought, and
  • there are numerous ways for characterizing and/or defining bots and what they do.

What matters most, in my judgment, is that ‘bots’ are indeed a form of Internet robots…sometimes referred to as spiders or crawlers. Bots are often used to perform repetitive functions as in the above example of data-information mining, etc., and not infrequently, bots manifest – materialize as a form of malware used to gain control over a computer…

  • amazingly, bots can also be used to (automatically) interact with online messaging and websites.
  • too, malicious bots, generally possess a ‘worm-like capability to self- propagate’, often for nefarious purposes, e.g., to gather passwords, log keystrokes, obtain financial information, relay spam, capture and analyze information packets, launch ‘denial of service’ attacks, open back doors, and infect computers and systems with harmful viruses.

In other words, self-propagating (malware, malicious) bots...can infect a host and then connect back to an initiators’ central server. The servers, in this instance, variously function as a ‘command and control centers’ for bot-nets which consist of networks of computers which have been compromised…

  • put another way, malicious bots are generally used – exploited to infect large numbers of computers and/or computing systems which in turn, form adverse bot networks or ‘botnets’.

Through my lens, a particularly trouble-some feature associated with some bots and botnets…is their intentional design to be surreptitious, variously camouflaged to be undetected by a targeted host. Ultimately, bots are designed to continually search – mine the Internet to store – bank language and communications which can be applied (injected) at will – on command elsewhere…

  • the execution of which can appear routine and is generally undetectable and undistinguishable insofar as the origins.
  • bots are capable of deftly interjecting information, data, and/or language they have banked to apply to a targeted circumstance (event, action, behavior) with the intent to manipulate, alter, and/or ‘blur’ its actual –  factual context.

NOTE: This post was influenced by and adapted by Michael D. Moberly from the BBC Radio program ‘Click’ hosted by Gareth Mitchell, titled ‘Technology and Fake News’.)

Michael D. Moberly August 14, 2017 St. Louis [email protected] ‘A blog where one’s attention span, business intangible assets, and solutions converge’!

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