July 12, 2013

'Virtual Lolita' aims to trap chatroom paedophiles

A virtual robot called Negobot has been created by Spanish engineers to protect teenagers from potential sexual predators when online. The software, known as a 'chatbot', is capable of having conversations with paedophiles and tricking them into thinking its a real person
A virtual Lolita that poses as a 14-year-old girl to trap paedophiles online has been created in Spain.

Negobot, developed at the University of Deusto in the north of the country, is revolutionary in that it can change its behaviour to lure in groomers and uncover their personal details.

‘Chatbots tend to be very predictable,’ said Carlos Laorden, one of Negobot’s creators.

The Negobot strikes up conversations to catch paedophiles in online chatrooms
‘Their behaviour and interest in a conversation are flat, which is a problem when attempting to detect untrustworthy targets like paedophiles.

‘What’s new about Negobot is that it employs game theory to maintain a much more realistic conversation.’

Game theory, a system of strategic decision-making, makes Negobot’s behaviour more convincing by using seven ‘conversational agents’ to modify the virtual girl’s responses to the suspected paedophile’s behaviour.

Initially passive and neutral, Negobot will change its behaviour if any attempts are made to obtain personal information to try and find more out about the suspect.

Typos, abbreviations and deliberate language errors are also used to make the chatbot seem authentic.

This flow diagram demonstrates how the Negobot goes about having a conversation with potential predators on social network sites. It has been programmed with seven different personality types and can add typos to conversations as well as feign offense to appear more life-like
The university field-tested Negobot on Google’s chat service and plans to collaborate with the Basque Country police force over its implementation.

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