I don't like the laissez faire treatment of bots. It bothered me from minute one. But it took me a bit of time to formulate what exactly my problem with them is. I'll admit, bots don't pose any kind of existential problem for Steem. As long as bots don't get a significant portion of the activity, Steem doesn't break. But Steemit? Steemit loses value from bots every step of the way and ought to be fighting them like the parasites they are.
Bots use valuable server resources
For every action a bit of data has to be stored on a post, and included with every page view. A bot that upvotes a post adds maybe .05kB to the post and has to be served in each request. A bot's comment adds maybe .2kb to the post. Bots make an unknown number of page views, but given the bot to user ratio of activity I see, it's probably around at least 10% of the pageviews, if not more.
Steemit might be free for me to use, but it's not free for someone. Whenever the site is sluggish, whenever it goes down due to traffic, you know bots exacerbated this. And while I might be potentially be paying for the site operation by proxy via advertisements some day, bots are of 0 value to advertisers.
Bots erode trust
A new user makes a post. Immediately there's upvotes and a couple comments! Wow! Steemit is different! And then the user realizes those are made by bots, just trying to make a quick buck. The user wonders, are these bots making lot of money off this? Why is it worth it to run them? How much of the activity that's here is fake?
Bots should show up when we ask, and do what we want them to. Bots shouldn't show up unannounced, implicitly begging for upvotes, and hoping they're one of the first to upvote a highly paying post (which I'd imagine they are).
I don't want to stick around very long on a social media where bots are rewarded similarly to real activity. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I'd imagine it's an issue for others as well.
Bots are fake activity
Similar to eroding trust with everyday users, bots erode trust with whales and advertisers. Whales must be thinking about how much of the newly minted steempower goes to bots. They buy in so they have influence over the media of people, not bots. Whales and potential whales use this to decide whether to hold or sell steempower, and if they sell, everything upvote is worth less.
Advertisers are wary about this as well. If steem tells advertisers they get X pageviews, or Y comments per user, advertisers will immediately wonder how much comes from bots. Sure, steemit doesn't serve ads yet, but they will probably need to eventually to pay the huge server costs. And bots won't be a boon for them there.
What to do?
Outright banning based on number of reports is dangerous. It would be easy for bots to start getting real users banned, and that'd be worse than ignoring the bots altogether. But there are other patterns which bots make, which are obvious. Upvoting every single post. Commenting the same comment on everything. Put some algorithms working in the background to fight these bots. And then ignore all their actions.
Because bots are a problem for steemit, if not steem. But if steemit fails, steem probably will fall with it.