Do you have to make it entirely clear when an account is a bot?
Is it misleading, or, more, deceptive to keep that information not secret, per say, but not readily available either? Like, what are the moral obligations of bot-creators? Are there any? Is there a kind of digital, moral imperative? Or, more simply, rules of conduct in online spaces that are true all of the time? (Or else how can they be moral imperatives?)
These concerns and questions arose not while I was in the process of setting up a bot but, after I had created the bot and realized that I didn’t necessarily want to allocate a space on my account to revealing the “trick.” Honestly, I felt and still feel doing so steals some of the magic. (Kind of like over-tagging in fanfic. Stating an account is a bot–announcing it’s run on a systematic queue as opposed to a flesh and blood person amounts to the same a as adding so many tags to a fic that it becomes undeniable that it isn’t canon. And, I think some of the joy of fanfic is that it toes the line of reality in the same kind of way that bots can. Anyway, that was a long deviation. Back to the matter at hand!)
Is non-disclosure in this context wrong?
To complicate matters, I came across this thread of discussion between one pesky faerie and a circle-talking prophet. In it, a question about whether or not one can be at fault for another’s faith is posed. Simply, how responsible is one for another’s willingness to be deceived? If all the info/evidence, aside from an outright admission/confession, is freely available for one to interpret and draw logical–you’d hope–conclusions from, is my fault they decide one plausibility is more credible than another? Trumps another?
For example, if you walk into a grocery store, see all the bar-codes on products, the numbers following little $ symbols on shelves, then notice the registers at the front of the establishment with scanners–scanning as you watch the items of other guests to the establishment and ringing up, again, numbers beside $ symbols which prompt the guests to exchange currency in some form–and you still attempt to/decide to grab an apple pie and mosey on out of that store without swinging by the registers like everyone else, the resulting consequences are kind of on you. I know many grocery stores and other retail establishments will have signs that say things like, Pay Here, but I don’t think they have ones that explicitly say: You must purchase goods from this store via monetary means (i.e cash or card) before you can leave or else you will be arrested. Sure, there also signs that probably say, “Shoplifters will be prosecuted” but, again, those kinds of signs are asking you to infer something–that you must buy before you can take–and are not explicitly stating the “rules” of the transaction. Just the consequences that will proceed it if it is not carried out properly.
A good counter-argument to the one just posed would, of course, be that the “etiquette” or “conduct” is imposed by greater sociocultural norms, which are implicit and so don’t always need enforcement through direct statement. By merit of being a social space, a grocery store has rules of practice anyone in the culture in which this grocery store exists will know or, at least, be familiar enough with to understand. So, I guess, my question is whether or not the internet culture of right now is at a place that allows members of it to properly recognize and interpret the signs that would signal whether or not a bot is a bot without an explicit warning/disclaimer?
….To be honest, my gut feeling is no. Non. Nada. 아니오. Nílim. Really, no.
If the widespread acceptance of “fake news” is any indication of the internet society’s ability to interpret info–gauge its credibility–and make informed decisions, then I don’t believe any symbols/signals in online spaces ubiquitous and made intuit enough yet for bots to go unannounced. That said, I still don’t want it be necessary that I reveal my bot in so many words. Personally, I just don’t feel like that is one of my responsibilities. But, does that make me part of a greater problem–the proliferation of falsehoods masquerading freely as not in digital spaces? Even if it seems like such a minor offense?
I believe this issue is a significant one when it comes to discussing netprov as a whole. In the Studio Visit with Mark Marino and Rob Wittig, both netprov creators touched upon this concern and said they came to the conclusion that “deception” is all well and good until someone gets “hurt”–their feelings or otherwise. Like, it’s “good fun”. A magic trick. Especially when there is a big reveal at the end. Of course, that presupposes an amicable end where everyone will feel inclined to come together for discussion…. but, whatev.
Anyway, I guess that’s where I my thoughts on this whole thing keep returning–to the idea that, so long as my deception, my magic trick, is not causing anyone undue* harm or offense, why is it wrong? Because lying is inherently wrong? All the time? There’s never an acceptable or appropriate reason to keep something hidden? You must be a delight when it comes to surprise parties, huh?
I’ll admit, though, I’m not sure where this leaves the issue of “fake news.” And, it’s my understanding that there are now courses being offered to study just that–the issue of it and, also, how it is even created. So, there are no simple solutions or short answers or, really, answers. All I can say, I think, is that the internet culture/society needs to integrate more of a desire for truth and for critical consumption of info into its practices. Finding something that agrees with one’s views of the world is “great” but, like, what are that something’s sources? And, do those sources have agendas of their own? What do they gain by attaining your belief? And, more, internet culture needs to shift away from aggression as a universal response–violently reacting to anyone or any group which dares to share a view that isn’t compatible with another’s. In many cases, I agree that anger is a justifiable feeling towards an idea being forwarded but it shouldn’t be the driving force behind your reaction. Anger seldom provokes meaningful discussion these days so much as it does a nasty argument. Then again, I’m speaking from a particular context of my own–which I can never fully exist outside of–so, maybe, these suggestions are “fine and good” but not useful in alleviating another’s struggles or solving their particular problems.
So, because I don’t want this post to turn into a venting/ranting one and I don’t feel like delving into ethics because, again, no. Nope. Nah–
This is where Shadow Girl will take her leave and sign out. She’s got pesky faeries and persnickety prophets to eavesdrop on, after all. Much too much on her plate… ^.^
*according to how I define the word and how you do too~