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This deceptively simple bot searches Twitter for the #FalseFlag hashtag and retweets the results. Here’s an example of its output:
— Pecos Bill (@PecosBillTruckr) June 14, 2014
The concept of the false flag is born from mistrust of the government and lends itself to elaborate conspiracy theories about covert operations on its own soil which are then blamed on terrorists. During the Bot Summit, Ben Abraham discussed this concept and explained some of his interest in redoing the original @FalseFlagBot, as seen in this video. Some of the conspiracy theory hashtags he mentions and a few others were conveniently listed (and retweeted by the original @FalseFlagBot) in this tweet.
Twitter hashtags aren’t simply categories or tags: they create spaces for communities to come together and cluster topics or events under commonly used identifiers. Hashtags become virtual spaces that wait for you to visit and explore the topic. By retweeting this hashtag, @FalseFlagBot_ creates a memory and archive of the topic. It allows readers interested in the topic to follow it and receive its feed interspersed with the rest of their Twitter stream. As such, it enhances the development of a community around the topic, encouraging replies, conversations, and further retweets. Whether the retweets, tweets, or followers are “sincere or ironic” (to roughly paraphrase Abraham) is beside the point, that is for the reader to decide. What followers and people who write #falseflag tweets might think of this silent retweeting bot and project onto it is up to them– but some of the responses discussed by Abraham lead me to think that this bot might pass the Turing test without writing a single word. In the end, the bot documents a hashtag for purposes that may suit different audiences, and it does so openly and without inserting its voice into the conversation.
After all, anyone(s) could just as easily be monitoring the hashtag without alerting the tweeters, people with the significant financial or legal power to access the Twitter firehose. And what kind of information could they be gathering about people tweeting with the hashtag? And for what purpose?
Coda: For a more whimsical and humorous exploration of the same concept, check out Ben Abraham’s @TheYearOfLuigi bot.
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