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New NannieBots ''Search'' For Pedophiles

Staff Writer
Published: 2004-03-18

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There is new software that can now detect pedophiles attempting to lure children in chatrooms. Called ChatNannies, the software creates thousands of nanniebots that log onto different chatrooms and initiate conversations.

These bots work by imitating what a child might say, giving the impression that a young user is in the room. While people are "chatting" with it, the bot analyzes the chat text, looking for people trying to lure children.

When one of the bots finds something it suspects, they send an alert to the designer of the software, Jim Wightman. He then looks over the transcript and if anything suspicious is occurring, Wightman notifies the appropriate authorities.

In a recent test of 2000 users, nanniebots did such a good job of imitating child users that none could distinguish whether it was a bot chatting with them or a real user.

To have an effective guise, ChatNannies analyze sentences, breaking them down into nouns and verbs and comparing them to previously encountered sentences. The software has a neural network that constantly acquires knowledge on how people use languages.

Wightman currently has over 100,000 bots chatting in various rooms around the Internet. Chris Atkinson, the Internet safety officer with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said in an interview with NewScientist.com, "if this software works, then it would be marvelous because there is nothing like this out there."

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