Roll Your Own Human Powered Botnet with Pawnfarm

Simulating human identities online with robots is hard. So why not just pay humans to do it for you?

Pawnfarm, made in a collaboration between Web Ecology Project researchers Evan Burchard and Tim Hwang (and emerging from the various discussions at Web Ecology Camp IV) enables you to do just that. Once you have an instance of it running, you can put any arbitrary number of Twitter accounts under zombie control of the artificial artificial intelligence engine of Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Then, you can tell the bots to have human-generated @’s, RTs, tweets, and specify custom directions for them to follow (tweet about the weather, comment on articles, etc), just by pumping money into Mechanical Turk. It’s pretty slick.

Effectively, this creates a human-powered botnet completely under the command of the user of Pawnfarm. It’s hoped that this project will allow for the massive scaling of human-powered robo-identities on Twitter, and other interesting experiments coming out of it. The next steps, for the curious, are to allow the behavior of these bots to get proactive, having them follow/unfollow under certain conditions, reply to certain parts of a social network, etc, etc. Truly exciting times.

All the code now released over Github on the MIT License. Get it while it’s hot! And, send any questions/thoughts/etc to