Refuse to be Human

14.09.2021 – 01.05.2022
DJI 20210924 105447 573

The Baidu edition

Have you ever wanted to surf the web as a bot? Ever wondered what a bot gets to see online that you don't? In their latest online work, !Mediengruppe Bitnik allows you to become a Baidu bot to find out.

The number one search engine in China, Baidu uses web crawlers that extensively scrape the web for content for their search engines. Only what the bots see is indexed, for discovery later by users searching on Baidu. Refuse to be Human allows you to install a web extension that changes your browser’s user agent to match that of the Baidu bot, giving you access to what is referred to as the ‘grey web’ – a layer of content only visible to bots. This simple web extension allows you to experience the web in a novel way: You will see fewer ads and less taylored content and you will be able to access websites and archives usually paywalled.

Become a search bot to gain access to the grey net.

Artist Statement

Download the browser extension here:



!Mediengruppe Bitnik (read – the not Mediengruppe Bitnik) are contemporary artists working on, and with, the Internet. Their practice expands from the digital to physical space, often intentionally applying loss of control to challenge established structures and mechanisms.

!Mediengruppe Bitnik’s works formulate fundamental questions concerning contemporary issues. In the past they have been known to subvert surveillance cameras, bug an opera house and broadcast its performances outside, send a parcel containing a camera to Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and physically glitch a building. Their works have been shown internationally, most recently in exhibitions at CAC Shanghai, LOAF Kyoto, Annka Kultys Gallery London, House of Electronic Arts Basel, Aksioma Ljubljana, Kunsthaus Zurich, FACT Liverpool, Onassis Cultural Center Athens, Public Access Gallery Chicago, Nam June Paik Art Center South Korea, Shanghai Minsheng 21st Century Museum, The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts Moscow, Beijing Contemporary Art Biennial and the Tehran Roaming Biennial.

The artist group


Previously released editions of Refuse to be Human

The Baidu edition of Refuse to be Human was commissioned by Digilab@Kunsthaus Zurich. The source code is free software and published under the GNU GPLv3.


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DJI 20210924 105447 573 v2
DJI 20210924 105623 571

At the Kunsthaus

until 31.3.22

Random Darknet Shopper is an automated online shopping bot which ran from within three exhibition spaces in three different countries between 2014 and 2016 [1]. With a budget of $100 in Bitcoins per week, the bot went shopping in the deep web, where it randomly chose and purchased one item per week and had it delivered directly to the exhibition space. Once the items arrived, they were unpacked and displayed, each new object adding to a landscape of traded goods from the Darknet.

The Random Darknet Shopper is an exploration of the Darknet via the goods traded there. It directly connects the exhibition space with the Darknet.

By randomizing its consumerism, the Random Darknet Shopper Bot was guaranteed a wide selection of goods from the thousands listed on deepweb markets. In its first run from October 2014 - January 2015, Random Darknet Shopper bought 12 items, which were displayed at Kunst Halle St. Gallen. The sixth order was a pack of ten yellow Ecstasy pills from Germany, which duly arrived and were displayed within the exhibition space.

”Can a robot, or a piece of software, be jailed if it commits a crime? Where does legal culpability lie if code is criminal by design or default? What if a robot buys drugs, weapons, or hacking equipment and has them sent to you, and police intercept the package?” These are some of the questions Mike Power asked when he reviewed the work “Random Darknet Shopper” in the Guardian.

Global questions, which were then negotiated locally: On the day after the three-month exhibition at Kunst Halle St. Gallen closed, the public prosecutor's office seized the Random Darknet Shopper. The seizure caused a sensation around the world because for the first time a robot had been arrested for an illegal act. At the same time, however, it remained unclear who was responsible for the actions of the bot. The bot itself, the artists or the exhibition space and it's staff.

Three months after the confiscation, all items except the Ecstasy (which was destroyed) were released back to the artists. In the order for withdrawal of prosecution the public prosecutor stated that the overweighing public interest in the questions raised by Random Darknet Shopper indeed justified the possession and exhibition of the drugs as artefacts.

The artists as well as Random Darknet Shopper were cleared of all charges.


[1] St. Gallen Edition: Kunst Halle St. Gallen, Switzerland, Oct 14 2014 - Jan 15 2015; London Edition: Horatio Junior Gallery, London, UK Dec 11 2015 - Feb 5 2016; Ljubljana Edition: Aksioma Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 24 Feb – 25 Mar 2016

Bitnik A737667