Catching pedophiles with text mining and game theory


Earlier this year, I wrote about how ill-intentioned data scientists could use their skills to build highly sophisticated spambots that fool us into thinking they’re real by looking and acting like real people. It turns out those same techniques can be used for good, too — like in the case of a group of Spanish researchers who have developed a chatbot designed to lure and catch pedophiles in online forums such as social networks and chatrooms.

In practice, the researchers’ chatbot, which they call a “Negobot,” should act a lot like how an advanced spambot on a service like Twitter might act, and using tools already in play by email spammers to avoid spam filters. The Negobot initiates a discussion with a target and then decides its next move based on how the target reacts. It is designed to respond to interactions in a time consistent with how long a…

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