2 min read

Last week, California’s Governor Jerry Brown passed a bill giving rise to a new law that will ban automated accounts, more commonly known as bots, from pretending to be real people in pursuit of selling products or influencing elections. The bill was approved on September 28 and will be effective from July 1, 2019.

As per the California Senate, “This bill would, with certain exceptions, make it unlawful for any person to use a bot to communicate or interact with another person in California online with the intent to mislead the other person about its artificial identity for the purpose of knowingly deceiving the person about the content of the communication in order to incentivise a purchase or sale of goods or services in a commercial transaction or to influence a vote in an election.”

The law will assist in tackling social media manipulation to determine foreign interference. Bots caused major issues during the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections and have ever since grown to be a menace that platforms like Twitter have been trying to combat.

The 2016 U.S. Presidential elections saw Russian-controlled bots playing an active role in manipulating opinions, retweeting Donald Trump’s tweets 470,000 times, and Hillary Clinton’s fewer than 50,000 times.

The main aim of this effort is to target bots that spread misinformation. Twitter said that it took down 9.9 million potentially spammy or automated accounts per week in May and has placed warnings on suspicious accounts.

Twitter has also announced an update in its work on its “election integrity” project, ahead of the US mid-term elections in November. These include updating its rules regarding fake accounts and sharing stolen information. It said it would now take into account stock avatar photos and copied profile bios in determining whether an account is genuine.

Robert Hertzberg, a state senator from California who pushed for the new law forcing bots to disclose their lack of humanity, told The New York Times he was the subject of a bot attack over a bail reform bill.

So he decided to fight bots with bots by launching @Bot_Hertzberg in January. As per California law, the account discloses its automated nature.

“*I AM A BOT.*” states the account’s Twitter profile. “Automated accounts like mine are made to misinform & exploit users. But unlike most bots, I’m transparent about being a bot.”

To know more about this California Senate ’s bill in detail, check out the Senate bill.

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