New California law would require social media sites to identify bot accounts

Credit: Raj Verma/Business Today

Under newly proposed legislation in California, social media platforms would be required to label automated accounts. These accounts are also referred to as “bots.”

The lawmakers say this is an effort to curb the spread of fake news.

While the use of bots continues to be a contentious issue surrounding the 2016 elections, it didn’t stop there. Recently, following the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School, Russia-linked bots were suspected of pushing gun control issues.

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During the 2016 elections, the same Russia-linked bots shared Donald Trump’s tweets at about 10x the rate than for Hillary Clinton.

“We need to know if we are having debates with real people or if we’re being manipulated,” says California State Senator Bob Hertzberg, who wrote the bill. “Right now we have no law and it’s just the Wild West.”

The new bill would make it illegal to use bots with the intention of misleading people. In order to enforce the measure, the legislation would require social media companies to allow users to report violations. The bill would also require social media companies to make bimonthly reports to the attorney general.

Social media companies claim that it’s hard to identify bot accounts. They say this will make it hard to enforce the proposed legislation.

Some researchers have claimed that 15 percent of Twitter’s accounts are bots.

Also in California, other legislation is surfacing that will regulate social media companies. State Assemblyman Marc Levine introduced a bill that would require disclosure of a buyer’s identity for election ads.

California feels a bit guilty about how our hometown companies have had a negative impact on society as a whole,” says Shum Preston, from Common Sense Media, who supports Hertzberg’s bill. “We are looking to regulate in the absence of the federal government. We don’t think anything is coming from Washington.”


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