Becoming president inevitably changes your perspective. But Donald Trump has flip-flopped on many issues: He praises what he used to criticize and ignores things he had previously made it his mission to highlight. Perhaps the most glaring evidence is found in his Twitter feed: His past tweets at times contradict his present ones so perfectly it’s funny.
For instance, Trump complained on Nov. 10, 2016, that people were protesting his election:
But four years earlier, after Obama’s election, he was the one calling for protests:
In 2012, he had much to criticize about the electoral college:
But four years later the system that made him president with a minority of the popular vote was “genius”:
The list of examples is long, and juxtaposing Trump’s old tweets to his new ones has become a popular sport. But finding the apposite tweet from three or four years ago is an arduous process. Could it be automated?
We enlisted Quartz’s bot studio to find out.
You can’t (yet, at least) build a bot with a sense of irony. But as John Keefe, our bot developer, explains, you can build one to compare new tweets with old ones and calculate how similar they are. Similar tweets have at least a chance of being on the same subject but contradictory—which are what we’re looking for.
The result, Trump of Yore, is online here.
It’s a work in progress. Sometimes, the tweets it selects are clearly closely related, such as these two from 2017 and 2013:
Sometimes, the bot’s pairings make hardly any sense:
Still, the key problem is that even when the bot is spot-on, it can’t tell whether or not the two tweets represent a Trump flip-flop. Here’s a pair it produced showing that on at least one thing, the president’s mind hasn’t changed:
So while TrumpOfYore can definitely work as an assistant, scanning through far more tweets than a human has time for and selecting a shortlist of similar ones, it won’t be replacing a human sense of humor any time soon.