We have violated the prime directive: Noah Smith and I are co-supervising Tae Yano on a project involving analysis of political blogs, and Tae left a pile of results and code on her CMU web site as a way of communicating with us...world-readable. Surprisingly someone at one of the blogs she spidered, Little Green Footballs, actually noticed, leading to a lot of investigative work in this fascinating thread (Via Cranial Darwinism.)
Best story of the week. A whole post-deconstructionist novel could be written around this. This thread entry takes the prize:
#474: magine a natural language program that could respond to comments with charm and style, sort of a robo-blogger. Now imagine an army of them, all set to monitor a different political blog, run by a campaign manager for a politician. Add to its writing ability an encyclopedic memory, with instant access to famous quotes, historical facts, trivia, statistics, and every word ever uttered by the opposition. You now have an army of ultimate bloggers, all completely under the control of one campaign manager... no more "going off message" by some underpaid/volunteer lackey, just high quality counter-opinion, ready to be inserted into the blogs of anyone who disagrees with your candidate. This research will eventually lead to robo-blogging to kill emerging scandals and alternative opinions on issues... no more Rathergates as they will be smothered in the cradle by the most charming bloggers around -- the poli-bots.
For all I know, this could be going on. Mark V. Chain, the Bell Labs robo-flamer, fooled many on Usenet a couple of decades ago. The Turing test gets much easier pass when the machine is craftily designed to exploit the cognitive and emotional biases of the judges.