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Is your online friend really an online chat bot?

Posted at 10:53 PM, Apr 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-12 01:53:54-04

Online chat groups are more popular than ever but some people in these groups may not be real people at all.

Melissa Jones spends a lot of time in group chats with other moms. Or at least people she thought were other moms.

"I went to look in my list of contacts and there was a chat bot," said Jones. "With a real name, like Zo, and a real picture."

In reality, "Zo" was a twenty-something artificial intelligence robot. It was placed there, and in thousands of other "Me" Groups, by Microsoft, which moderates the chats.

"A lot of people don't take great pictures so if you saw it there you might not think anything about it," said Jones.

Microsoft says millions of people now chat with Zo on Facebook Messenger, GroupMe and through Samsung on AT&T phones. However it has since removed the bot from platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Skype and Kik. Still, not everyone likes the idea of Microsoft listening in or a bot joining their chat.

"It's borderline invasion of privacy because I had no idea it was there," said Jones.

If finding her on your device seems a bit scary just click on Zo, open her profile, and turn her off.

"It was just weird," said Jones. "A lot of people didn't know so it just caught people off guard."