“I think it’s definitely more polite to tell the person why you don’t want to talk to them anymore, but people are afraid of confrontation,” Tweten told me. “Maybe [the bot] doesn’t tell them the specific reason why, but it vaguely lets them know you don’t want to continue talking to them. It’s another tool women or men can use.”
The bot stops responding if the other person’s language becomes too aggressive. If it becomes threatening, Ghostbot automatically blocks the person. Because they don’t have your real phone number, it feels like a barrier.
The bot doesn’t respond to photos, so if you receive a large number of unsolicited images—say, of genitalia—in your inbox, Ghostbot won’t make all that disappear.
The power of an open phone number
Ghostbot emerges from beta today. It doesn’t pass the Turing test, but that’s OK. It wasn’t meant to. The real mission behind Ghostbot is to show people what an open phone number is capable of. The platform launched Burner Connections last year to let developers build new functionality into a phone number, so you can do anything from forward texts to a Slack channel to automatically save photos and messages to a Dropbox account.
“There’s a lot of significant investment into the world of AI and machine learning,” Burner founder Greg Cohn told me. “Our idea is to plug that into our phone number simply. A lot of the bot discussions are people interacting with brands. In the model that we’ve developed around this, the bot is working on behalf of the consumer. It’s an agent-assisted human. The human is interacting with people they’re dating and they can hand off to the machine when they get tired. But it’s not just the dating context—there are lots of contexts in which this is interesting. I don’t anticipate us as Burner developing a library of bots ourselves, but enabling people to plug into Burner.”
You can keep a Burner number long-term if you want to, or you can delete the number and wipe its data at any time. Paying $5 a month for a premium subscription will give you a line with unlimited calls, texts, and photo messages. You can turn on Ghostbot for any contact on any line.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.