Nerval’s Lobster writes Who’s responsible when a bot breaks the law? A collective of Swiss artists faced that very question when they coded the Random Darknet Shopper, an online shopping bot, to purchase random items from a marketplace located on the Deep Web, an area of the World Wide Web not indexed by search engines. While many of the 16,000 items for sale on this marketplace are legal, quite a few are not; and when the bot used its $100-per-week-in-Bitcoin to purchase a handful of illegal pills and a fake Hungarian passport, the artists found themselves in one of those conundrums unique to the 21st century: Is one liable when a bunch of semi-autonomous code goes off and does something bad? In a short piece in The Guardian, the artists seemed prepared to face the legal consequences of their software’s actions, but nothing had happened yet—even though the gallery displaying the items is reportedly next door to a police station. In addition to the drugs and passport, the bot ordered a box set of The Lord of the Rings, a Louis Vuitton handbag, a couple of cartons of Chesterfield Blue cigarettes, sneakers, knockoff jeans, and much more.
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