California’s SB 1001 – Bot Disclosure Law

Why should you care that your opinion is constantly being manipulated by hoards of fake humans, bot armies that have infiltrated and devalued our social networks, video sites, commerce, and political discussion?

You should care because the use of these bots is a Federal crime.

And more explicitly, A bot pretending to be human is also against the law in California as of July 1, 2019.

The law, which goes into effect on July 1, 2019, was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Friday, September 28. It will apply to companies who operate online chat services, where a bot can supply assistance to customers.

However, the law – SB 1001 – is intended to tackle commercial and political bots, that seek to sway the opinions of people online. This includes bots used on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

“[B]ots can be – and are often – weaponized to spread fake and misleading news, reshape political debates, and influence advertising audiences,” said the bill’s author, Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles), noted CBS Sacramento.

“SB 1001 sheds light on the fake accounts that simulate real people and spread waves of false information across social media platforms.”

Per the law, any bots used online will have to clearly state that they are indeed a bot.

And from the bill itself:

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 incentivize a purchase or sale of goods 
or services in a commercial transaction or to 
influence a vote in an election.

Yes. This is exactly the kind of legislation we need on the federal and state level. And of course the movement starts in California. We will see how the law gets implemented in coming months.

But you should also care because:

1. Your attention is the largest and most valuable commodity you possess

2. These false human networks, controlled by less ethical humans, are being used to cynically manipulate you by stealing your attention and directing it to the purposes of those individuals

Bot networks turn innocent people into slaves of misinformation.

These are malicious AI networks, using algorithms to find the most effective fake identities for influencing certain population groups.

The people who use bots who pose as humans have ruined our infospace, and I will no longer entertain the argument that these nefarious techniques of opinion manipulation are legitimate expressions of freedom of speech.

Painting by Simon Stålenhag

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