Pedophiles Beware Negobot, A ‘Virtual Lolita’

Enid Burns for – Your Universe Online

Parents worry about their children falling victim to online predators, but a new solution aims to snare such offenders. Negobot, a software program created by a group of researchers at the University of Deusto in Spain, has seven programs to engage in chat with suspected pedophiles.

The program is being called a “virtual Lolita” by a number of media outlets, including the Huffington Post. Negobot starts chats with suspects in a neutral tone, posing as a 14-year-old girl. The program is adaptive, using an arsenal of artificial intelligence and machine learning to keep the conversation convincing. Triggers can sway the conversation in different directions. Negobot has seven personalities that are typical targets of sexual predators.

“As conversations become more intimate or suggestive, and the ‘target’ begins to employ grooming tactics, Negobot’s behavior changes in ways designed to lure him in,” the Daily Mail reported.

Personalities include insistent and offended. “An attempt to obtain personal information will cause Negobot to try to find out more about the suspect,” the Daily Mail said.

The software represents an advance over previous virtual chat programs, according to the team of creators. In the past, chatbots have been found to be predictable. “Their behavior and interest in a conversation are flat, which is a problem when attempting to detect untrustworthy targets like pedophiles,” said Dr. Carlos Lorden, who contributed to the software work.

“What is new about Negobot is that it employs game theory to maintain a much more realistic conversation,” Dr. Laorden said.

The Negobot uses its artificial intelligence and machine learning to engage in game theory, which activates a convincing chat session. It is, in fact, the game theory that makes Negobot convincing. “It can take the lead in conversations, and remember specific facts about what had been discussed previously, and with whom.” BBC News reported.

Some say the program can help overburdened police, however others fear that the program can trap people unfairly. The Negobot program only provides the chat personality, it is up to the website or platform to determine how to respond. It is not clear whether the program alerts police, or the site’s administrator at least, when engaging in such chats, or if the program is able to suspend accounts and deny access.

Developers at the university were able to create a convincing chat by deploying tricks such as “inserting typos, abbreviations, and deliberate language areas to mimic the actions of a young teenager,” the Daily Mail said.

The program still has some learning to do yet. “Despite having a high degree of artificial intelligence, Negobot’s powers of conversation are still limited, the researchers point out that it is unable to detect linguistic subtleties such as irony, for example,” the Daily Mail said.

Negobot is available for $29.95. Most likely social networks, chat rooms, online games and other Internet hangouts for children will employ the software, rather than individuals. The team worked under a collaborative agreement with Ertzaintza, the Basque Country police force, the Daily Mail reported.

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