"The good thing about laws is if they don't exist and you want one - or if they exist and you don't like them - you can change them," Levandowski told students at the University of California, Berkeley in December. "And so in Nevada, we did our first bill."
Socialbots are being circulated around the Web for many purposes. To irritate his adversaries, a software developer from Australia designed a bot that automatically responds to tweets from climate change deniers, sending them counterarguments and links to studies debunking their claims. A security engineer in California programed a bot to scoop up reservations for State Bird Provisions, a trendy restaurant in San Francisco. Mercenary armies of bots can be bought on the Web for as little as $250. For some, the goal is increasing popularity. Last month, computer scientists from the Federal University of Ouro Preto in Brazil revealed that Carina Santos, a much-followed journalist on Twitter, was actually not a real person but a bot that they had created. Based on the circulation of her tweets, two commonly used ranking sites, Twitalyzer and Klout, ranked Ms. Santos as having more online “influence” than Oprah Winfrey.