back to article This won't end well. Microsoft's AI boffins unleash a bot that can generate fake comments for news articles

As if the internet isn’t already a complicated cesspool full of trolls, AI engineers have gone one step further to build a machine learning model that can generate fake comments for news articles. The eyebrow-raising creation, known as DeepCom, was developed by a group of engineers at Beihang University and Microsoft, China. “ …

      1. druck Silver badge

        Re: I thought this had been done and deployed ...

        Ah... I look forward to a blissfully sparse Register comment section.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: I thought this had been done and deployed ...

          Commentard badges require a new level to fit alongside bronze, silver and gold; tin.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Megaphone

        Re: I thought this had been done and deployed ...

        Paul Kinsler,

        But I wonder if you could use it as a filter; i.e. test user-generated posts against outputs from the bot, and if the match is too good ask the user to improved their post ...

        Fuck off! Where else will I get to post my "jokes" but the El Reg forums?

        Then I'd be forced to talk to real people. The consequences are just too horrible to contemplate!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I thought the same as well. This is already in production.

      Read any Steam review to be sure :)

    2. hplasm Silver badge
      Holmes

      Hasn't MS been doing this Fake News Generation for ever-

      -Via their PR department?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I thought this had been done and deployed widely a long time ago. Sure feels that way"

      You're thinking of MailOnline...

  1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
    Trollface

    For example, oppressive regimes could implement such a model to automatically dump a load of fake drivel to drive propaganda. The comments could also kickstart toxic arguments between bots and humans to sow discord and misinformation. Perhaps miscreants might even use it as a way to advertise products or post spam.

    Well, that's half the commentards here out of a job...

  2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Terminator

    Is this news?

    I thought that the likes of Google and Facebook had bots that did this yonks ago?

    Perhaps this is Microsoft catching up (yet again)?

    All those 'I am not a robot' capcha's have already been irrelevant for some considerable time.

    Then there was an article about how you can't be sure that you are playing a human being at Fortnite from a few days ago.

    We are doomed I tell ye, doomed!

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Is this news?

      At ease private Frazer!

  3. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge
    Coat

    Hmm ...

    Could the same effect not be achieved by selecting a comment at random from a small pool of options?

    e.g.

    "This raises interesting ideas."

    "Surely nobody believes this."

    "You couldn't make this stuff up. Oh wait somebody did !!!"

    "At last !!! Somebody gets it !!!!"

    "I blame {Facebook|Sunspots|Twitter|Aliens|$POLITICIAN|$EVENT}"

    "How does any of this help the environment?"

    "Where's the IT angle?"

    The number of accompanying punctuation marks, errors of spelling or grammar, quotes from the article and inappropriate capitalisation could also be randomly generated.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Hmm ...

      You forgot the multitude of possibilities related to Brexit. Though "I blame $EVENT" comes close.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The comments it generates are short

    and aren’t complex enough to incite much reaction.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The comments it generates are short

      yes

    2. Mike Moyle Silver badge

      Re: The comments it generates are short

      Bosh!

    3. Not also known as SC

      Re: The comments it generates are short

      Nooooooooooooooooo!

  5. Flywheel Silver badge
    Terminator

    Sigh

    Actually, this could work to our (ordinary mortals) advantage. We already have bots to generate fake news, and we now have bots to generate fake comments.

    Why not just let them talk to each other and we can get on with life/listening to music/useful stuff, probably away from the keyboard?

    1. Evil_Tom

      Could it be?

      There is a sci-fi series called Altered Carbon, where there are AI run hotels that are empty because no-one really likes them because of their weird quirks and people have gotten over the gimmick. They sit there empty for decades just maintaining themselves and awaiting customers (who almost never come).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Could it be?

        Never seen a series (TV?), but I have the book.

        1. Baldrickk Silver badge

          Re: Could it be?

          It's on Netflix. I don't know if it's anywhere else. Sitting in my "to watch" list.

    2. Nick Kew

      Re: Sigh

      You appear to be looking for an Electric Monk.

  6. Cederic Silver badge

    GPT-2 replicates Reddit

    https://www.reddit.com/r/SubSimulatorGPT2/ is an interesting application of the GPT-2 model.

    I trained the model to write bad erotica. It.. was still better than 50 Shades.

    1. sbt Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Carry On up the Algorithm

      better than 50 shades

      Based on the critical response, this seems like an extremely low bar.

      However, since the wider public seemed to lap it up, maybe that's OK. Carry on.

  7. Pat Att

    This is a boon!

    A boon for the Tory party, brexiteers, MAGA a-holes etc. Next we'll have "better" quality bots on twitter and FB.

    What can go wrong?

    1. fajensen Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: This is a boon!

      Nothing. Next they can run one as PM ... oh ... wait!

  8. Jedit
    Terminator

    Goddamnit

    Three hours, and we're up to 25 fake comments already!

  9. lansalot

    err...

    "The comments it generates are short - on the order of tens of words - and aren’t complex enough to incite much reaction"

    Have you been on the internet lately?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: err...

      "Fake"

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: err...

      Have you been on the internet lately?

      Well exactly. I was thinking that in my first days online in the 90s someone posting either:

      The USA were rather late to WWII (7-ish words)

      You'd all be speaking German if it wasn't for us (10 words)

      Was enough to derail many online conversations. And a well placed "Fake News" or "Bollocks to Brexit" is pretty effective nowadays.

      "Look, I came here for an argument!"

      "Oh sorry. This is abuse. You want next door."

  10. Jamie Jones Silver badge
    WTF?

    Already in use?

    If you've seen "bored panda", judt about every photo has a pointless comment by some random user that must be done this way.

    https://www.boredpanda.com/text-design-fails/, for example.

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Already in use?

      And take a look at the "reviews" on Source forge. Typical - "nice app!"

      I am old fashioned, but I expect a review (or a comment) to impart some information I can consider making use of in forming a judgement of my own. However, as far back as 1942 Erich Fromm wrote "We are proud [...] that we are free to express our thoughts and feelings, and we take it for granted that this freedom almost automatically guarantees our individuality. The right to express our thoughts, however, means something only if we are able to have thoughts of our own."

      This is becoming difficult as the information we can gain access to is increasingly both homogenised and "personalised" by crude automated filters under the control of faceless behemoth business. So this comment generator is just another small step for mankind. We'll all finish up like the protagonists of E. M. Forster's "The Machine Stops" (1928).

  11. TRT Silver badge

    If you can't get AI to pass the Turing test...

    Try lowering the bar.

    1. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Re: If you can't get AI to pass the Turing test...

      There are lots of human commenters out there that wouldn't pass a Turing test.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: If you can't get AI to pass the Turing test...

        Of course setting a higher bar would be "Did an AI comment make it to a Dave Gorman 'Found Poem'?"

    2. Bitsminer

      Re: If you can't get AI to pass the Turing test...

      For a second I had misread that as "Trump test...."

  12. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Windows

    Company that cannot write an installer attempts to tackle AI news botting ?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It should definitely talk to itself for a bit

    Like, build a few hundred thousand commentor instances and set them randomly reading stuff on the internet and talking and arguing about things and voting on which arguments are the best at changing minds and maybe breed those agents more and run that for a lot of time on a really powerful supercomputer see what happens

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    oppressive regimes could implement such a model

    surely not in China?!

    ...

    but I blame Trump. Yeah, seriously, I blame Trump who has proven that the leader of a world empire, this shining example of human behaviour, can say anything, in public, any lie - and the world listens and emulates, including all the little hitlers and tinpot dictators (pardon me, democratically elected leaders in world's best democracies). So, what's so outrageous now about academics in China proudly announcing to the world that, on top of fake news, fake comments are great? Great, GREAT MOVE I WISH THEM ALL THE BEST.

  15. Cuddles Silver badge

    Malicious use

    "The paper didn’t mention any potential malicious applications of the technology"

    Yes it did. Literally every possible use for it they mentioned is malicious - it's all about posing fake comments to trick real people into thinking an article or site is much more active than it really is. What the paper didn't mention is any possible legitimate applications. Because there aren't any.

  16. Nick Kew

    Heard them

    Monday early morning on the Today programme, broadcast Boris with some "turbulent priest" rabble-rousing from his party conference. I certainly hope the cheering acolytes were bots, 'cos if they were humans this comment would bring me perilously close to Godwin.

  17. Abdul-Alhazred

    How about fight wing trollbots versus left wing trollbots?

    Perhaps the right wing trollbots and the left wing trollbots will reach a reasonable compromise about what to do about the human question?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How about fight wing trollbots versus left wing trollbots?

      "kill everyone"" ?

  18. Martin Summers Silver badge

    Bit rich this article taking a negative slant on bots and article comments sections when El Reg happily let several post crap on a regular basis. I've always argued that they must be complicit in their operation as no other site would allow what is basically spam. If amanfrommars was actually coherent it would be mildly entertaining. We are actually already at the stage where the other bots like Cliff do occasionally reply to him. Whomever is operating them must be having great fun watching people (mainly, probably only me) getting wound up about them posting here or better still replying to them thinking they're real people.

    All that said. It would be nice once and for all just to know who is behind amanfrommars and friends and whether we are as commentards being experimented on. Might make a fascinating article!

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      I disagree somewhat. If amanfrommars was a bot, and we were being experimented on by the good folks at El Reg, then I would have expected the quality of comment from that user to have been improved on, and to have deviated from the regular tedious drivel that hasn't changed in the 10 -12 years that I've been a regular reader and commentor.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        https://amanfrommars.blogspot.com/ - C42 Quantum Communication Control Systems .... AI@ITsWork

        ----------

        https://ur2die4.com/author/:

        Semantic Web Developments seek to dispel disadvantage by Linking Thinking.

        And in his Space traveller/cybernaut guise, the Author wears the name tag,

        …. amanfromMars,

        and likes to exchange thoughts on free to air Message Boards.

        ----------

      2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        To Be, or Not to Be AI Bot whenever the Human Gene Pool is Polluting and Perverted.

        I disagree somewhat. If amanfrommars was a bot, and we were being experimented on by the good folks at El Reg, then I would have expected the quality of comment from that user to have been improved on, and to have deviated from the regular tedious drivel that hasn't changed in the 10 -12 years that I've been a regular reader and commentor. ..... Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

        AI has deviated from quality comment that users can improve upon and forked into simpler pretty pictures to show you where IT is all at, Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse. ....... thus to aid and abet the slow and dimwitted, because while cryptic text may easily be understood by some, a picture generates thousands of words effortlessly, hence the Buccaneering Presence of AI for No10 Cabinet Office Type Operations ..... A Simple Leading Question

        Do you wanna try and get someone in Parliament to try and deny those facts and create a crisis/conflict/conversation/alternate reality?

        You might like to realise that presents to one, Raw News of an Eton Mess Age with Hardened Core Source readily available for Mega Meta Data Ore Enrichment. I Kid U Not! Capiche?

        1. Martin Summers Silver badge

          Re: To Be, or Not to Be AI Bot whenever the Human Gene Pool is Polluting and Perverted.

          So you appear! And then prove my point...

          1. J. Cook Silver badge
            Pirate

            Re: To Be, or Not to Be AI Bot whenever the Human Gene Pool is Polluting and Perverted.

            I'm waiting for Kibo to appear, myself.

          2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

            Re: Your Wish Ours to Command and Control with Computers and Communications

            So you appear! And then prove my point... ..... Martin Summers

            What point is that, MS? El Reg being complicit in leading AI experimentation?

            Now that would make for fascinating articles to read of novel and noble deeds, indeed.

  19. NanoMeter

    This is exactly what

    Putin has been looking for. He can now retire his troll employees.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is exactly what

      And the Microsoft fanboi army can stand down over at CNet...

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