Should Campaigns Be Banned From Using Social Media Bots?
Do you support banning the use of social media bots in elections?
by Countable | 7.29.19
What’s the story?
- Candidates, campaigns, and political organizations would be required to disclose information regarding social media bots if Congress passes Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) Bot Disclosure and Accountability Act of 2019.
- Social media bots are software programs that replicate human activity on social media platforms, often tricking users into believing they are interacting with another human.
Who’s using social media?
- According to the Pew Research Center, in 2005, only 5% of U.S. adults used online social media; by 2018, 69% of adults in the United States reported using some form of social media—including 88% of adults under the age of 29.
- 78% of adults under the age of 50 reported that they obtain some of their news from social media.
What would the Bot Disclosure and Accountability Act do?
- The bill bans political organizations and candidates from using automated software programs that are intended to impersonate human activity in order to create or circulate public communication.
- It authorizes the Federal Trade Commission to enforce transparency requirements on social media companies regarding the use of social media bots that replicate human activity.
- The bill amends the Federal Election Campaign Act to prohibit candidates, campaigns, and political organizations from using social media bots as a channel to disguise political advertising or deceive voters by giving the false impression of support from actual persons online.
What are people saying?
- “We know Russia used social media to influence the 2016 election, particularly the deployment of bots that provide content to fake accounts,” Feinstein said.
“These bots were used for one purpose: to deceive voters. This bill prohibits bots from being used in any effort that seeks to subvert future elections.”
- “It’s literally taking these high-end technological concepts and bringing them home to basic common-law principles,” Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-CA) told The New Yorker. “You can’t defraud people. You can’t lie. You can’t cheat them economically. You can’t cheat 'em in elections.”
“There is no effort in this bill to have a chilling effect on speech—zero,” Hertzberg said. “The argument you go back to is, Do bots have free speech? People have free speech. Bots are not people.”
- Jamie Lee Williams, a lawyer at digital rights' advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the measure presents a perilous reduction in free-speech rights.
- “What scares me a lot is this idea that First Amendment protections are too great and we should whittle it back and relax our standards and allow more government restrictions on speech—giving the government the power to police speech is a dangerous thing," Williams said.
“I don’t think E.F.F. would ever come out in support of rules like this. There are a lot of good bots.”
What do you think?
Do you support disclosing if a social media account is run by a human or a bot? Do you think that disclosing this information will change how people interact with bot-run social media accounts and political campaigns? Why or why not? Let your representatives know, then share your opinions below.
(Photo Credit: iStock / Rawpixel)
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