By Troy Farah
Bots, automated scripts that run tasks throughout the internet, have altered our digital landscape.
Bots were deployed during the Brexit vote and got #MacronLeaks trending during the 2017 French election. An estimated 48 million Twitter accounts—approximately 15 percent of the entire userbase—are actually bots, according to research published last year from the University of Southern California and Indiana University. Some of these accounts blasted more than 2 million tweets during the 2016 election. Security firm Imperva estimated in 2016 that nearly 52 percent of internet traffic came from bots, and the majority—28.6 percent—were malicious.
While Congress has done essentially nothing, many states—including Maryland, New York, and Washington—are drafting regulations that would attempt to reign in bots. In California, two bills—AB 1950 and SB 1001—would force Silicon Valley giants to identify which accounts are not “natural” humans.
“Consumers of social media don't really know who's pushing information on them,” Assemblymember Marc Levine, the author of AB 1950, told me in a phone call. “This bill is not going to solve all of our problems, but it's going to strike at the heart of it, which is that we need reasonable regulations on how this technology is being used. We know that we cannot trust the technology companies to regulate themselves.”