INEIS Seminar by Milena Tsvetkova

Even good bots fight: The case of Wikipedia

2017.03.02 | Merete Elmann

Date Wed 15 Mar
Time 13:00 14:00
Location Room 1325-242, Department of Management, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University

Wednesday 15 March 2017 at 13:00 in room 1325-242, Milena Tsvetkova from Department of Methodology at London School of Economics and Political Science will give a presentation entitled

Even good bots fight: The case of Wikipedia

This is a joint seminar between INEIS and CODER (Department of Physics and Astronomy)

Everybody is welcome!


In recent years, there has been a huge increase in the number of bots online, varying from Web crawlers for search engines, to chatbots for online customer service, spambots on social media, and content-editing bots in online collaboration communities. The online world has turned into an ecosystem of bots. However, our knowledge of how these automated agents are interacting with each other is rather poor. Bots are predictable automatons that do not have the capacity for emotions, meaning-making, creativity, and sociality and it is hence natural to expect interactions between bots to be relatively predictable and uneventful. In this article, we analyse the interactions between bots that edit articles on Wikipedia. We track the extent to which bots undid each other’s edits over the period 2001–2010, model how pairs of bots interact over time, and identify different types of interaction trajectories. We find that, although Wikipedia bots are intended to support the encyclopedia, they often undo each other’s edits and these sterile “fights” may sometimes continue for years. Unlike humans on Wikipedia, bots’ interactions tend to occur over longer periods of time and to be more reciprocated. Yet, just like humans, bots in different cultural environments may behave differently. Our research suggests that even relatively “dumb” bots may give rise to complex interactions, and this carries important implications for Artificial Intelligence research. Understanding what affects bot-bot interactions is crucial for managing social media well, providing adequate cyber-security, and designing well-functioning autonomous vehicles.

Milena Tsvetkova is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Methodology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She completed her PhD in Sociology at Cornell University in 2015. Prior to joining LSE, she was a Postdoctoral Researcher in Computational Social Science at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. Milena’s research interests lie in the fields of computational and experimental social science. She employs online experiments, network analysis, and agent-based models to study fundamental social phenomena such as cooperation, contagion, segregation, and inequality. Her work has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation (USA) and the Volkswagen Foundation (Germany), published in interdisciplinary journals such as Scientific Reports, Science Advances, and PLOS ONE, and covered by The New York Times, The Guardian, and Science, among others.