Prof. Dr. Ulrike Klinger, junior professor at Freie Universität Berlin
gave the lecture “Rage against the Machines? Social Bots, Agency und die Nicht-Neutralität von Technologien [Social Bots, Agency and the Non-Neutrality of Technologies]“ at the Hans-Bredow-Institut.
Social bots play an increasing role in public communication – as a chat partner, customer advisor as well as potentially manipulative forces in election campaigns and other campaigns. This is a software that imitates people and their behaviour and which is not recognisable at first glance. At the same time, social networks in particular offer a fertile habitat for bots. The lecture offers insights from two current research projects: On the one hand, it explains how bots can be identified and why this is methodologically difficult and ethically sensitive. On the other hand, from a theoretical perspective, the question arises whether bots are actors at all, what “agency” means and why this is a relevant question.
Another important point that Klinger raised was the increasing fear of algorithms and bots. This is unfounded since algorithms are not acting autonomously but are always programmed by people with a certain intention. Therefore, social scientists should ask who programms algorithms and bots - and why.
Klinger is junior professor for journalism and communication studies with the focus on digital communication including gender aspects at the Institute for Journalism and Communication Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. She is also head of the research group "Nachrichten, Kampagnen und die Rationalität öffentlicher Diskurse [News, Campaigns and the Rationality of Public Discourse]“ at the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society.
Photo: John Flury