- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Sen. Dianne Feinstein offered legislation Tuesday to ban the use of automated social media accounts, or bots, by political candidates, campaigns and organizations.

The bill, dubbed the Bot Disclosure and Accountability Act, was proposed by Ms. Feinstein, California Democrat, as politicians look to lessons learned from the 2016 U.S. presidential election with a little more than a year left in the current White House race.

In addition to authorizing the Federal Trade Commission to enforce transparency requirements on social media companies regarding the use of bots, the bill would amend the Federal Election Campaign Act to effectively ban their use by candidates, campaigns and political groups.

“We know Russia used social media to influence the 2016 election, particularly the deployment of bots that provide content to fake accounts. 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,” said Ms. Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“The American public deserves to know who is behind online political content in order to make informed decisions. That’s why this bill requires social media companies to identify all bots on their platforms and prohibits candidates, parties and PACs from deploying bots to advertise in elections,” she said in a statement.

Specifically, if passed, the bill would ban political candidates and campaigns from using bots to “make, amplify, share, or otherwise disseminate any public communication.”

The bill would similarly also ban political committees, corporations and labor organization from using bots to expressly advocate for or against a candidate, or essentially anything else considered electioneering communication under federal law.

Nearly seven in 10 adults reported using social media in 2018, and more than two-thirds claimed to get at least some of their news from platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, according to a Pew Research Center poll Ms. Feinstein cited.

A separate study found that during the 2016 presidential race, 19 percent of all posts on Twitter about the election were authored by bots, the senator noted.

Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who oversaw the special counsel’s investigation into the 2016 election for the Department of Justice, concluded that bots were deployed during the race to boost content on Twitter created by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll farm” accused of interfering in the race ultimately won by President Trump.

Candidates vying to compete against Mr. Trump in 2020 have already claimed to have been targeted by automated social media accounts, meanwhile. Sen. Kamala Harris, California Democrat and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said during an interview Friday that her White House campaign is being attacked by bots of alleged Russian origin.

Ms. Feinstein unsuccessfully proposed an earlier version of the anti-bot bill in June 2018.

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