These imaginary citizens of the Internet have surprising power, making celebrities, wannabe celebrities and companies seem more popular than they really are, swaying public opinion about culture and products and, in some instances, influencing political agendas.
Influence comes in many forms, but on the web, it's measured in likes, comments, and followers... and those things are easy to buy, which means "influence" has never been so easy to purchase. All you need is a few bots.
We're all familiar with internet bots. For most of us, the first thing that comes to mind is spam Twitter accounts trying to sell us Dr. Oz's latest weight-loss solution.
Few of us, though, think of armies of bots being wielded by authoritarian regimes to wield political influence. According to Nick Bilton, that's the fascinating reality of today's internet.
Friends, and Influence, For Sale Online ➝