In 2010, researchers with Truthy, the Indiana University research group, discovered a number of Twitter accounts sending out duplicate messages and re-tweeting messages from the same few accounts in a closely connected network. Two accounts, for example, sent out 20,000 similar tweets, most of them linking to, or promoting, the Web site of John A. Boehner, then the House minority leader, before the last midterm elections.
Much of the social media remains unregulated by campaign finance and transparency laws. So far, the Federal Election Commission has been reluctant to venture into this realm.
But the bots are likely to venture into ours, said Tim Hwang, chief scientist at the Pacific Social Architecting Corporation, which creates bots and technologies that can shape social behavior. “Our vision is that in the near future automatons will eventually be able to rally crowds, open up bank accounts, write letters,” he said, “all through human surrogates.”"