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Good bots are the internet’s worker bees; bad bots are out to get us—can you tell them apart?

Tamanna Mishra
posted on 28th April 2017
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According to a report by Are You Human, 56 percent of the traffic on the internet comes from bots. Even the bigger websites get over 50 percent of their traffic from them. Clearly, the new internet landscape is much more than just human-machine interaction. Artificial intelligence is taking over the landscape but a lot of us don’t know what that means for us.

Image : shutterstock

Image : shutterstock

It is especially crucial now when chatbots are quickly covering the gap between conversational marketing and customer service and the number of bots designed with less ideal agendas in mind is also increasing by staggering numbers. Much like the conversations on the internet, bots too form an inherently polarised ecosystem. Some help brands and people find the information they need to operate better, answer questions, and generally do all the repetitive hard work on the internet. But a lot of them are also feeding proprietary content to grow databases, impairing marketing campaigns, serving hidden ads to trick users into downloading malware, and more.

But the one thing that all bots have in common is their ability to mimic human behaviour, which is exactly why it is hard to tell the difference between good ones and bad ones. Here is a quick lowdown of all that bots are capable of doing and how we, the users, despite our untrained eyes, can detect them and what they are out to do.

Good bots—the internet’s worker bees

From crawling websites to determine their rankings to keeping news and weather developments updated in real time, the good bots are often the internet’s own automated interns and form 27 percent of the internet’s traffic. They work hard to help consumers find good deals on the internet and discover plagiarised content. Good bots help make the internet a better place. Typically, we interact with the following kinds of good bots online:

Copyright bots: Some of the most well-intended bots of the internet, they crawl webpages to identify plagiarised content and enable action against those with little respect for authenticity.

Spider bots: Used by search engines like Google and Bing, spider bots crawl websites and pages to analyse content, linking, and organisation to feed to website ranking tools. Essentially, they ensure that good content gets served to users.

Media and data bots: Used mainly to provide real-time updates on news, weather, sports, currency, and the share market, these bots enable easy access to accurate, timely information. In some of the First-World markets, academicians are already using media and data bots to enable quick exchange of information with students.

Trader bots: These bots work tirelessly to ensure that users can find good deals on the internet. They make sense of e-commerce sites too, as they help post better prices so users can continue engaging them.

Bad bots—the skewers of reality

From serving spam to unsuspecting users to creating false impressions on pay-per-click marketing campaigns, bad bots are responsible for skewing reality just like unfounded facts, fake news, and the echo chambers that the internet’s algorithms help create. Typically, we encounter the following bad bots during daily browsing sessions:

Click bots: Fraudulent programs taking advertisers for a ride, click bots engage with advertising links to create false impressions, thus eating into digital marketing budgets and skewing the efficacy of campaigns.

Spam/email bots: Responsible for spreading spam content across the internet through emails, collecting personal information from filled forms, and bringing fraudulent advertising links to users’ screens, spam and email bots are possibly the oldest trick in the book.

Spy bots: Similar to spam and email bots, spy bots are designed to mine personal information like email addresses, phone numbers, and financial health, which is then sold to the highest bidder.

Impersonator bots: These bots are designed to mimic human behaviour to enter sites and follow offsite commands meant to harm websites.

Download bots: These bots load possibly malicious or inappropriate websites instead of the ones users want to view. These bots often also trick download counts for smartphone apps, using fraudulent means to increase or decrease app rankings.

Know the good from the bad

The only way to protect yourself from bad bots while freely engaging the next time a chatbot from the Hilton helps you book your hotel room is awareness. Stay updated on all that bots can do, keep your antivirus software constantly updated, and surf mindfully. Not every link on the internet deserves to be clicked!

For more resources on staying safe on the internet and keeping your business ethical, safe, and bot-smart, read the following:

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