Hertzberg Bill Shining Light on Social Media Bots Clears First Committee
SB 1001, the BOT Act of 2018, next heads to Senate Judiciary Committee
SACRAMENTO –Senator Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, announced today that SB 1001, a bill he authored with the support of Common Sense Kids Action to require social media companies to identify the presence of automated accounts on their sites, cleared its first hurdle by passing the Senate Committee on Business, Professions, and Economic Development on an 8-1 vote.
Californians are increasingly targeted with commercial, political or other messages carried by automated accounts masquerading as real people. These bots can lend false credibility to the messages they put out, and some have been used to degrade the quality of the news and information online by pushing coordinated fake messages.
SB 1001, also known as the “B.O.T. Act of 2018” (“Bolstering Online Transparency”), would increase social media transparency by requiring automated accounts – or bots – to be clearly identified on social media sites to protect Internet users from the spread of false information.
"The heart of this issue is simple: we need to know if we are having debates with real people or if we’re being misled," said Sen. Hertzberg. "There’s no way we can completely get rid of bots, and we don’t aim to, but right now it’s the Wild West, and nobody knows the rules. This bill is a step in the right direction."
While the bill moves through the State Senate here in California, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faces scrutiny after testifying in Washington D.C. about what Facebook does to protect its users. Over 60 million Facebook accounts bots are estimated to be fake or misleading.
“Social media companies have been totally irresponsible in protecting kids and families who use their products,” said Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense. “We see the results and it’s a fractured democracy. California led the way in creating many of these technologies, and now we have to lead the way in protecting families from them.”
But bots are not always used to mislead users. Many entities use automated technology to share important information, like seismic activity, electronic receipts, or results of online searches. So Sen. Hertzberg, in an effort to highlight the issue, has created a bot, @Bot_Hertzberg. The Twitter account is a self-identified automated account that offers up automated posts to demonstrate that bots, when properly identified, can exist positively in the social media ecosystem.
SB 1001 next faces a vote in the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on April 24.
Bob Hertzberg, chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, represents nearly 1 million San Fernando Valley residents of Senate District 18, which includes part of Burbank and the following communities in Los Angeles: Arleta, Granada Hills, Hansen Dam, Lake View Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, part of Northridge, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, part of Sun Valley, Sylmar, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Van Nuys, the City of San Fernando and Universal City. See a district map at http://sd18.senate.ca.gov/district. After serving in the Assembly from 1996-2002, including two years as Speaker, Hertzberg invested in solar, wind and electric-car projects; and worked for structural changes in government through the Think Long Committee of California. Learn more at www.senate.ca.gov/hertzberg.