Deutsch Built a Bot That Will Say Something Nice to 300 Million Twitter Users, One by One

NiceBot counterbalances cyberbullying

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Something nasty or insulting is posted to Twitter every 60 seconds, and not all of it is directed at Justin Bieber. To counteract this, Champions Against Bullying teamed up with Deutsch to add some positivity to the social network—indeed, an avalanche of it.

At some point in the undetermined future, if you use Twitter, you will get a pleasant tweet from @TheNiceBot, a bot whose goal is simply to spread kindness and happiness. It booted up this week and is using Twitter's API to push out a nice tweet every 36 seconds to a random user, and then move on to the next user. Aside from a few targeted tweets to specific people at launch, the tweets are random and they are not personalized—they combine a pre-defined list of copy lines with a database of Twitter handles.

It will take a while to reach everyone. Twitter has more than 300 million users; tweeting at each one, at 36-second intervals, will take—by our calculation—about 342 years. But the NiceBot is in for the long haul. It's "the Mars Rover of kindness," Deutsch says. "We're going to turn him on, and then sit back and watch as he makes the Internet a nicer place, one tweet at a time."

Deutsch has also made actual 3-D printed NiceBots and sent them to celebrity influencers who have taken public stands against cyberbullying. Each physical NiceBot is powered by a Raspberry Pi and equipped with a 4G connection and LCD screen in the chest, and will live-tweet the nice messages as they go out in real time on Twitter.

The obvious criticism of the campaign is that it's spammy. But Deutsch says the potential of the positivity is worth the possibility of some backlash.

"The idea for the NiceBot came about when we found a pretty interesting stat—something mean, cruel or hurtful is posted on Twitter every 60 seconds. That kind of relentless negativity is hard to combat," says Jeff Vinick, executive creative director at Deutsch.

"But we started thinking about different ways to be nice to as many people as possible, and a spambot seemed like a good solution. And while spam is normally thought of as something negative, we figured that if the message was simple and positive enough, people would respond favorably—and maybe even be tempted to spread some niceness themselves."

Vinick says the reaction has been great so far. "People seem to be happy receiving a simple message of positivity to brighten their day," he says. "The NiceBot's mission is to spread niceness to everyone it can. It doesn't worry about the response. It simply thinks everyone is deserving of kindness."

"During our first two weeks, 99.5 percent of our messages are automated," adds Suzanne Molinaro, the agency's director of digital production. "We have a small number of select users on Twitter that we're sending manual tweets to, so they can help spread the initiative. As we continue past these two weeks, everything will continue through code. The physical NiceBots are created through 3-D printing and house microelectronics with a Raspberry Pi and cellular data card to display The NiceBot's Twitter feed."

Molinaro adds: "Our ultimate is to reach every user on Twitter. To anyone who characterizes this as spam, we'd say that we created a bot that turned the automation used in spamming into a tool for positivity."

The client, Champions Against Bullying, is excited about the project, too.

"Last year, we created a PSA that called attention to teenagers who had committed suicide from being bullied. This year we're accelerating from awareness into action," says founder Alexandra Penn.

"And while mass messaging is usually thought of negatively as spam, the NiceBot can be a powerful tool to spread positive and empowering messages in a unique way," adds Leigh Rachel Faith Fujimoto, the group's U.S. director.

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@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.