Law in the Internet Society

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SamSchafferSecondEssay 8 - 11 Feb 2020 - Main.SamSchaffer
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 These bots also undermine the credibility of earnest political activists, who may be mistaken for bots and banned from social media platforms. In 2018, for instance, Facebook deleted the page of Shut It Down DC, an organization formed to combat the spread of white supremacists in Washington, D.C. Online discussion forums such as Reddit have also been disrupted, as users sometimes doubt whether they are dialoguing with others who harbor genuine beliefs. The First Amendment journalist Jared Schroeder notes that these bots tend to undermine the “marketplace of ideas”. In the words of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, “the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.” _Abrams v. United States_, 250 U.S. 616, 630 (1919) (Holmes, J., dissenting). Schroeder notes that the internet has already eroded this marketplace of ideas due to the increased fragmentation of communities, and he further argues that social bots – which he calls “AI communicators” – accelerate this erosion through their ability to create more content than humans.
We should keep in mind that not everyone who encounters a social bot is fooled into believing it’s human. The Pew Research Center found that 66% of Americans had heard of social bots. Of those, 47% were either somewhat or very confident they could identify a bot. But that still leaves 34% of people who have never heard of social bots, and over half of people who were not at least somewhat confident they could identify a social bot. If these figures are an indication of who could be fooled by a social bot, then there is a large portion of the American public who are susceptible to the bot’s influence.
 California, in an effort to remedy this new-age problem, passed the Bolstering Online Transparency Act, also known as the "B.O.T. bill" (SB 1001). The law, which took effect on July 1st, 2019, forbids the use of 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.” A bot is defined as “an automated online account where all or substantially all of the actions or posts of that account are not the result of a person.” However, bots are permissible if their non-human nature is disclosed.

Currently, there is no legislation in the US at the federal level that restricts the use of social bots. However, in June 2018, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill known as the Bot Disclosure and Accountability Act. On its face, the bill is much broader than California’s law, as it proscribes all social media bots that pose as humans without disclosure. California’s law forbids only those bots that are designed to induce the purchase of goods or services or to influence a vote in an election. Another distinction is that the federal bill enlists social media providers to enforce the disclosure or discovery of the bots. Additionally, the federal bill prohibits political candidates, parties, corporations, and labor organizations from using the misleading bots. The federal bill tasks the Federal Trade Commission with figuring out the details, including the precise definition of “automated software program or process intended to impersonate or replicate human activity online”.

Revision 8r8 - 11 Feb 2020 - 04:49:20 - SamSchaffer
Revision 7r7 - 18 Jan 2020 - 16:57:11 - EbenMoglen
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