View Full Version : Will California’s New Bot Law Strengthen Democracy?

07-05-2019, 12:47 PM

July 2, 2019

When you ask experts how bots influence politics—that is, what specifically these bits of computer code that purport to be human can accomplish during an election—they will give you a list: bots can smear the opposition through personal attacks; they can exaggerate voters’ fears and anger by repeating short simple slogans; they can overstate popularity; they can derail conversations and draw attention to symbolic and ultimately meaningless ideas; they can spread false narratives. In other words, they are an especially useful tool, considering how politics is played today.

On July 1st, California became the first state in the nation to try to reduce the power of bots by requiring that they reveal their “artificial identity” when they are used to sell a product or influence a voter. Violators could face fines under state statutes related to unfair competition. Just as pharmaceutical companies must disclose that the happy people who say a new drug has miraculously improved their lives are paid actors, bots in California—or rather, the people who deploy them—will have to level with their audience.

“It’s literally taking these high-end technological concepts and bringing them home to basic common-law principles,” Robert Hertzberg, a California state senator who is the author of the bot-disclosure law, told me. “You can’t defraud people. You can’t lie. You can’t cheat them economically. You can’t cheat ’em in elections. ”

California’s bot-disclosure law is more than a run-of-the-mill anti-fraud rule. By attempting to regulate a technology that thrives on social networks, the state will be testing society’s resolve to get our (virtual) house in order after more than two decades of a runaway Internet. We are in new terrain, where the microtargeting of audiences on social networks, the perception of false news stories as genuine, and the bot-led amplification of some voices and drowning-out of others have combined to create angry, ill-informed online communities that are suspicious of one another and of the government.

Regulating bots should be low-hanging fruit when it comes to improving the Internet. The California law doesn’t even ban them outright but, rather, insists that they identify themselves in a manner that is “clear, conspicuous, and reasonably designed.”

But the path from bill to law was hardly easy. Initial versions of the legislation were far more sweeping: large platforms would have been required to take down bots that didn’t reveal themselves, and all bots were covered, not just explicitly political or commercial ones. The trade group the Internet Association and the digital-rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, among others, mobilized quickly in opposition, and those provisions were dropped from the draft bill.

Opposition to the bot bill came both from the large social-network platforms that profit from an unregulated public square and from adherents to the familiar libertarian ideology of Silicon Valley, which sees the Internet as a reservoir of unfettered individual freedom. Together, they try to block government encroachment. As John Perry Barlow, an early cyberlibertarian and a founder of E.F.F., said to the “Governments of the Industrial World” in his 1996 “Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace”: “You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.”

The point where economic self-interest stops and libertarian ideology begins can be hard to identify. Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook, speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival last week, appealed to personal freedom to defend his platform’s decision to allow the microtargeting of false, incendiary information. “I do not think we want to go so far towards saying that a private company prevents you from saying something that it thinks is factually incorrect,” he said. “That to me just feels like it’s too far and goes away from the tradition of free expression.”


07-05-2019, 01:26 PM

07-05-2019, 03:31 PM
These are the same people that criticize North Korea for only having 1 candidate on the ballot. It's mistaken for criticism--actually is jealousy. This is what they want to do.

Anti Globalist
07-05-2019, 04:39 PM
Considering this is California we're talking about and the fact that democracy is mob rule, I'd say no.

07-06-2019, 07:17 AM
Could this be any more idiotic?

Reveal your identity or you will be punished!
How are you going to punish me if you don't know my identity?

Let's say they actually try to enforce this. The man power alone would be astronomical. Hypothetically though, they suspect someone of being a bot on say, reddit, and they won't identify themselves. California requests this suspected bot's IP address from reddit. Let's pretend that a bot wouldn't use a VPN, and California is actually able to tie it to a us ip address. They contact the ISP and get the name the account is tied to. They go through all this work, and the suspected bot is from Alabama. They just went through all this work, and they realize they can't enforce a state law on someone who violated their state law from another state, just like they can't enforce their draconian gun laws on that same person in Alabama, for not complying with their gun laws while in Alabama.

07-06-2019, 07:47 AM
"Opposition to the bot bill came both from the large social-network platforms that profit from an unregulated public square and from adherents to the familiar libertarian ideology of Silicon Valley"

LOL, so that is why they are censoring conservatives...