Diakopoulos considers the use of ‘bots’ to be well established in areas of journalism rooted in the gathering and ordering of data. As evidence he looks to Automated Insights which has previously specialized in automatically generated earnings reports and is now expanding into sports reporting. AI would claim that data-processing software can free journalists to prepare more meaningful reports which put the gathered data into context. At the same time, robot journalism is viewed by many with suspicion, and Diakopoulos points also to the automated disruption of Twitter used to drown out dissent in Russia and to disrupt elections in Mexico.
However Diakopoulos and colleague Tanya Lokot have also found interesting ways in which bots can be a force for good by enabling the dissemination and sharing of news and information with increasing sophistication.
‘The @NYTAnon bot detects and disseminates instances in New York Times articles where anonymous sources have been used. The NYTAnon bot is particularly interesting because it did stir up some debates and caveats amongst the journalists on Twitter, not to mention entering into the New York Times own discourse on the Public Editor’s blog as it grapples with the issue of anonymous sources. I wouldn’t yet call it “accountability” but this bot does seem to be contributing in a meaningful way to media criticism, and provoking responses’.