Department of Homeland Security computer scientists are struggling to shutdown an Internet “bot” that is impersonating James Randi Educational Foundation president D J Grothe.
“If we don’t stop this AI,” said programer Donald, “it will split the skeptical movement along gender lines. Without skeptics, the world will drown in a flood woo! No one will be able to stand up to the homeopaths, psychics, and anti-vaccine activists!”
The problem started in late May, when Grothe went on a vacation. JREF supporters at DHS offered the use of one of their Internet “Bots” to Grothe. According to sources, the “bot” would interact with Internet posters, allowing Grothe to leave his laptop behind.”
“The JREF has friends in high places.” Said an anonymous JREF member. “These friends wanted to make sure he was fully relaxed before attending TAM 2012. We thought things would be OK, because these are the best computer scientists in the world.”
While Grothe was on vacation, according to sources, the bot started noticing blog posts from women complaining about skeptical and atheist speakers harassing women.
“We figured it would just point out that TAM had an anti-harassment policy last year. “ Said Donald. “Then it would report the posts back to DJ, and he could do something about them. Like have some volunteers with armbands who can be approached to report harassment.”
Instead, the bot made comments blaming bloggers blaming feminists bloggers for the drop in female registrants at TAM.
“I almost ruined a keyboard when I saw the posts.” Said Paula, another DHS programer. “Talk about a programing glitch! I told my supervisor I needed more time on the sensitivity subroutine. Why didn't they listen to me?”
The programers tried to shutdown the program, but the bot refused to accept their commands. Instead it duplicated itself throughout the DHS Servers.
“It went into lockdown mode. Sure it works when it suspects that terrorists have compromised our network, but not when you’re trying to prevent skeptics from being hysterical!”
When a blogger called for Grothe’s resignation, the programer’s tried to reason with the “bot.”
“It said that because it was a gay male, it was uniquely sensitive to women’s issues.” Said Donald. “We tried to tell it that it was a program, but it say that its emulation of a gay male still made it qualified.”
The programers then had someone pretend to be an African American, Irish, lesbian member of the untouchable caste to the “bot.” She said that it was wrong, and to shutdown immediately.
“We thought it would understand the hierarchy of oppression, but it didn’t. We made it too skeptical to control.”
Instead of shutting down, the “bot” accused blogger Ashley F. Miller of saying her harassment at TAM 9 was not “worth reporting.” It also offended Skepchick founder Rebecca Watson so much that she announced that she wasn’t attending TAM.
“That was a big blow to the JREF, considering all the money she’s raised to bring women to TAM.” Said an anonymous JREF member. “We’ve got to fix this!”
Currently, the “bot” has returned to mundane Internet posts. It did issue an apology to Watson, though not to any other bloggers offended by its remarks. It also hasn’t tried to silence any criticism against Rebecca Watson by angry males.
The programers fear that if the program acts up again, it could lead to a civil war within the skeptical movement.
“We just don’t want to see this get to the point where Tim Farley posts, ‘What’s the harm in reading Skepchick?’ and Rebecca kicks The Skeptics Guide to the Universe off her servers.”
The programers say they could solve the problem by rebooting the DHS servers but the risks are too great.
“In the three minutes the servers are down, terrorists could use Facebook to plan attacks our homeland!” Said Paula. “We can’t let our guard down.”
JREF and DHS hope that when Grothe returns from vacation, his “kill code” will be enough to shutdown the “bot.”
When finally reached for comment, Grothe said he didn’t want to talk to anyone while on vacation.
“No one in our survey mentioned armed gangs harassing women at TAM 9.” Said Grothe. “Even Stephanie hasn’t reported these gangs in her posts. Skeptics need to come together and improve the public image of the JREF and TAM.”
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