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'Robo-Lolita' hunts online predators in social chatrooms

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"Negobot" is a virtual Lolita researchers hope can be used to detect online sexual predators in chat rooms frequented by children.
"Negobot" is a virtual Lolita researchers hope can be used to detect online sexual predators in chat rooms frequented by children.

AN ARTIFICIAL intelligence has been created to entice the attention of pedophiles lurking in online chatrooms frequented by children.

Spanish researchers created the software named "Negobot" which convincingly poses as a 14-year-old girl in an effort to police social networks.

And she may already her first job: The Basque Country police force has shown interest in adopting the "robot" predator detector.

The project was initiated by the University of Deusto amid concerns about the growing online presence of vulnerable children and the limited success of more traditional means of tracking down offenders.

Known as a "conversational agent", the software uses a process known as game theory to simulate the behaviour of a young girl.

It even remembers what has been discussed previously, and when, in order to convince suspects that "she" is real.

Negobot even inserts "typos", contractions and deliberate language errors to enhance the believability of its 14-year-old "Lolita" persona.

"Chatbots tend to be very predictable. Their behaviour and interest in a conversation are flat, which is a problem when attempting to detect untrustworthy targets like pedophiles," Carlos Laorden, researcher at DeustoTech said.

"We have managed to produce a bot that varies its behaviour over time and the course of the conversation."

Negobot is an online virtual ?Lolita? intended to trap pedophiles.

Negobot is an online virtual "Lolita" intended to trap pedophiles.

Negobot is something of a split personality, with seven different programmed conversational "intelligences" having their own particular way of behaving.

The different levels of behaviour are triggered as conversations become more intimate or suggestive.

Negobot starts out as fairly passive and neutral participant in general online chatter in a forum where a predator is suspected to be lurking.

Depending on the "grooming" techniques being applied by the predator, the software will choose tactics such as appearing offended or insistent in order to attract attention.

If the suspect attempts to get personal information from Negobot, the robot will - in turn - attempt to find out more about them.

"The most dangerous pedophiles are very careful about giving out information," Laorden said. "These days it is sufficient to obtain a social network profile, mobile number or email address, information that is provided to authorities in order to open an investigation."

The artificial intelligence software does still need monitoring, however.

While it has strong and broad conversational abilities, it is unable to detect behaviour like irony.

?Negobot? can adopt a different strategy according to the ?grooming? technique being used by a suspected online predator.

"Negobot" can adopt a different strategy according to the "grooming" technique being used by a suspected online predator.

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