Bots po­lice gram­mar in the world of Twit­ter

Pro­grams re­spond to mis­takes typed in in­cor­rect tweets.

Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE & ARTS - By Cait­lyn Dewey los an­ge­les Times

For a soft-spo­ken pro­gram­mer from Buf­falo, Nate Fa­naro gets a lot of hate mail.

Ev­ery day, his Twit­ter queue fills up with mes­sages telling him to die or delete his ac­count. “I find you ex­tremely an­noy­ing,” one caller said in a voice mail. “You make lit­tle girls cry. What’s your prob­lem?” said an­other.

Fa­naro is not a hacker. He doesn’t take down Web sites or swipe credit card num­bers. Rather, the 30-year-old prankster is the cre­ator of the Twit­ter gram­mar bot Cap­sCop, an au­to­mated ac­count that finds peo­ple who tweet in all caps and, within sec­onds, fires a snarky correction back at them: “Give low­er­case a chance,” per­haps, or “On Twit­ter, no one can hear you scream.”

The tech­nol­ogy be­hind such bots is sim­ple, which helps ex­plain why so many tech-savvy gram­mar­i­ans have launched their own. Pro­gram­mers need only write a script to search Twit­ter’s data and re­spond to cer­tain phrases, and they’re well on their way to Twit­ter in­famy.

Teach­ers, par­ents and other cur­mud­geons have long blamed tex­ting and so­cial me­dia for the gen­eral de­cline of the English lan­guage. Con­sid­er­ing the wide­spread dis­re­gard for gram­mar in cer­tain cor­ners of the In­ter­net, they could “b 4given” for think­ing that kids th­ese days can’t write. (Be­cause while we’re some­times talk­ing about out­right mis­takes, we’re also talk­ing about the gram­mar-ag­nos­tic spirit that has evolved on­line.)

Although Twit­ter may seem like a strong­hold of sloppy writ­ing and acro­nym-happy In­ter­net slang, a num­ber of vig­i­lantes are hi­lar­i­ously and con­tro­ver­sially fight­ing back.

Bots such as Fa­naro’s ping un­sus­pect­ing Twit­ter users with sar­cas­tic cor­rec­tions. Anony­mous copy edit

ors such as fiercek send gen­tle re­vi­sions to work tweeted by writ­ers and re­porters. One of the new­est ac­counts, a wildly pop­u­lar project by Buz­zfeed re­porter An­drew Kaczyn­ski, seeks to pub­licly shame users who tweet things like “speak English your in Amer­ica omg.”

“I think you mean ‘you’re’ in Amer­ica. That’s em­bar­rass­ing,” YourInAmer­ica tweeted back to that one.

Since its launch in late Novem­ber, Kaczyn­ski’s ac­count — which ex­clu­sively tar­gets the phrase “your in Amer­ica” — has at­tracted 18,000 fol­low­ers and plenty of praise from me­dia out­lets such as Latina mag­a­zine, which lauded him for launch­ing a “gram­mar cru­sade” against “out­raged na­tivists.”

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