Friends, and Influence, for Sale Online

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Whoever said, “Money can’t buy you friends,” clearly hasn’t been on the Internet recently.

Retweets. Likes. Favorites. Comments. Upvotes. Page views. You name it; they’re for sale on websites like Swenzy, Fiverr and countless others. But many of your new friends may live outside the United States, mostly in India, Bangladesh, Romania and Russia -- and they may not exactly be human. They are bots, or lines of code. But they were built to behave like people on social media sites. Today’s bots, to better camouflage their identity, have real-sounding names. They keep human hours, stopping activity during the middle of the night and picking up again in the morning. They share photos, laugh out loud -- LOL! -- and even engage in conversations with each other. And there are millions of them. These imaginary citizens of the Internet have surprising power, making celebrities, wannabe celebrities and companies seem more popular than they really are, swaying public opinion about culture and products and, in some instances, influencing political agendas.


Friends, and Influence, for Sale Online