Robots are starting to break the law, the law is trying to figure out what to do about it, and it all seems to be happening in Europe. Last month, Swiss authorities seized the Random Darknet Shopper art exhibit which included weekly purchases made by an automated bot given Bitcoin to surf a Dark Web marketplace. (It mainly bought drugs.) This week, police in the Netherlands are dealing with a robot miscreant. Amsterdam-based developer Jeffry van der Goot reports on Twitter that he was questioned by police because a Twitter bot he owned made a death threat.
Van der Goot’s bot used his own tweets as fodder, taking random chunks of them and trying to recombine them into new sentences that made sense. According to van der Goot, the bot tweeted something that sounded like a threat which mentioned an upcoming event in Amsterdam. Best of all, the bot was responding to another bot, according to van der Goot. He is not identifying the bot and says he has deleted it, per the request of the police. If this is not a hoax, this may be the first time police had to respond because of a robot-on-robot threat of violence.
Here is van der Goot’s Twitter stream. He said being questioned by police was unnerving and that he needed to “process and wind down” before he could speak to a journalist.
While van der Goot owned the bot, he did not create it. Its France-based creator apologized to van der Goot and reported feeling “scared.”