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‘Stop the Robots’ Protest Was Actually a Viral Stunt for a Dating App

·Technology Editor

The buzzy techno-skeptical protest group Stop the Robots is actually a viral marketing stunt for the dating app Quiver, Yahoo Tech has learned.

Quiver is a new matchmaking app from the company behind Couple, a popular app for those in relationships. It launched in February 2015; its conceit is that instead of a “cold, mechanical matchmaking algorithm,” the app uses humans (your friends) to pair you up with potential matches. Hence the synergy of a group called Stop the Robots.

ORIGINAL STORY: Drinking Coffee With Stop the Robots, SXSW’s Anti-Robot Protesters

The group’s spokesperson, who identified himself as Adam Mason in various interviews with the press (including Yahoo Tech), is actually Adam Williams, one of the engineers behind the app. He is not a student of the University of Texas, as he told Yahoo Tech; he actually graduated from the University of Michigan in 2013 and founded the MHacks hackathon there. Williams considers Stop the Robots another one of his hacks –– and, indeed, he sure cracked his way into international media coverage. USA Today, Fox News, TechCrunch, and many more (including Yahoo Tech) all covered the protest; now the Quiver team is coming clean.

(Update: The Stop the Robots website has been updated to reveal that the campaign was, indeed, a marketing stunt for the Quiver app.)

Williams emphasized to Yahoo Tech that though Stop the Robots is not, in fact, a real advocacy organization –– the website was built in just 30 minutes leading up to SXSW –– he and the programmers behind Quiver do believe in everything they said in interviews with the press. They are indeed wary of artificial intelligence; they do emphasize that programmers need to be more careful about the morality of coding artificially intelligent systems.

They are not, Williams said, at all associated with the upcoming movie Ex Machina, as some have suggested; rather, they were just trying to get some publicity for a new app, and when the media kept calling, they kept telling the Stop the Robots story. The plan was always to reveal themselves as Quiver eventually, but the avalanche of media attention convinced them to continue talking.

Due to the overwhelming response, Quiver is considering leaving up Stop the Robots as a discussion forum for those with concerns about the growth and morality of artificial intelligence. Williams (aka Mason) suggested to me during our original interview that this might be Stop the Robots’ only event, as he was soon leaving Austin to work on a startup in San Francisco. 

It turns out that part is true: Williams does live in San Francisco, working on a startup: Quiver.