Bots Versus Trolls: The Trollbusters Chatbot

Recently I began working with Trollbusters, an organization that helps women writers who are facing online threats and harassment. As you might imagine, it can be hard to figure out how to respond when you are getting dozens or hundreds of harassing messages, or when those messages escalate to calls to your home or employer.

UPDATE: The bot is now live! For a technical writeup covering decisions about tools/platforms, user experience, and deployment, check out Building The Trollbusters Bot.

Trollbusters wanted to build a bot to take people through the process of assessing an online threat and responding to it in a way that was fast, calming, and available 24-7; so I’ve begun building them a Facebook Messenger bot that takes them through Trollbusters’ well-thought out and researched decision tree.

 

trollbusters decision tree

During the process, I’ve thought a lot about how bots might be used in newsrooms, both to engage users and to help respond during a crisis like a natural disaster.

The good news is that bot frameworks have really advanced to the point where there are robust open source options that will work with a variety of platforms — web, Facebook, text, even Slack.  I settled on Botpress, an open-source bot framework that runs on top of Node.js. One of the things that attracted me to Botpress was that a single script could run across multiple platforms.

botpress script shown in text editor

 

It also has a robust developer community building connector modules, including one that speeds up the process of connecting with the Facebook API. Here’s the script above powering a bot on Facebook:

UPDATE: The bot is now live! For a technical writeup covering decisions about tools/platforms, user experience, and deployment, check out Building The Trollbusters Bot.