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Online Sexual Predators Beware: There's a New 'Bot' in Town

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Who are your real friends online? It's difficult to tell.

Many "friends" lie about traits from likes and interests to gender, age, and identity. Many sad stories involving fake Facebook accounts include sexual predators posing as someone else. However, a new chatbot is attempting to help "out" online sexual predators.

(A "chatbot" is a software program designed to simulate intelligent conversation.)

Designed by researchers at the University of Deusto in Spain, this new chatbot, called Negobot, is based on artificial intelligence technology, natural language processing, and machine learning.

It was designed specifically to catch online predators. Nicknamed the "virtual Lolita" after Vladmir Nabokov's novel, Negobot poses as a vulnerable teenage girl. The goal is to draw out sexual predators online and discover information that could lead to their capture.

With natural language processing and memory of past conversations, Negobot uses slang, misspellings, and pop-culture knowledge to sound like a stereotypical teenage girl. In fact, it even acts in a manner that would be considered vulnerable, trusting and naïve. And Negobot can speak multiple languages.

But that's not all, one of Negobot's innovations is that it employs game theory to trap possible predators. In other words, its game plan is to gather as much incriminating evidence against the potential pedophile.

Negobot's main goal is to stay in an online conversation as long as possible. Ironically, it uses tactics similar to those of alleged pedophiles: it provides fake private information and lures unsuspecting perpetrators into a face-to-face meeting.

Some may consider this chatbot's methods aggressive, but it is a step in the right direction to protect children and teens online. Any effort to prosecute sexual predators deserves applause and consideration.

Note: I work for Net Nanny; opinions expressed here are my own.