When the bot launched it was intended to help solve a very particular problem. "The day-to-day life of an activist on social media often involves being asked the same questions over and over, usually by well-meaning, curious people," Kazemi wrote at the launch. "While some activists focus on basic education, many activists concentrate elsewhere and don't have the time to perform this free labor."
From the canvasser trying to stop you on the sidewalk to an organizer ushering people onto a bus to D.C., activism takes grunt work. While Twitter bots aren't about to replace this sort of infrastructure, it's possible they could supplement it, filling in the gaps that take not just human time but also emotional labor.
StayWokeBot hasn't quite taken on that role yet. In the beginning, it simply tweeted morale-boosting affirmations at each of its new followers (there are 3,099 as of this writing). Now, if you tweet the name or abbreviated form of a state at StayWokeBot, it'll tweet back with the name and phone number of the U.S. senators from there, as well as instructions on how to encourage them to vote for gun control laws.
As Caitlin Dewey points out in the Washington Post, it's an open question whether this tactic does much, since "few of [StayWokeBot's followers] seem interested in the bot’s current call to action." Nonetheless, Kazemi and Stanton are hoping others will take the idea and run with it. The code, which it runs on is open source, has been available on FeelTrain's GitHub page since last year.
The lurking issue behind this is how we value the work activists are doing in the first place. Stanton, speaking to the Post's Dewey, sums this up quite well: "An alternative ideal, of course, would be figuring out what appropriate compensation looks like for the people currently performing this labor.”
Mckesson, arguably the most famous activist to come to prominence for his involvement with Black Lives Matter, now makes $165,000 a year working for Baltimore's public school system, but that's not the norm. "Social activist" jobs average a salary $65,000 a year, according to the job site SimplyHired, which admittedly pulls from a small pool and is "based upon third party submissions."
Bots may fill in the gaps, but it's probably time to pay organizers more, too.
Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at firstname.lastname@example.org