In a continuing trend of updating technology laws, California recently passed a new bill prohibiting bots from pretending to be human when contacting consumers. The law will become effective July 1 of next year, PC Magazine reports.
Through the new bill, bots, including chatbots and other automated systems, will have to disclose that they are not human to consumers. “The measure bans automated accounts from pretending to be real people in order to ‘incentivize a purchase or sale of goods or services in a commercial transaction or to influence a vote in an election,’” PC Magazine says.
Consumers should expect clearer signage about bot disclosure from businesses that have already embraced bots; this includes the often overlooked fine print. This means that disclosures might appear in a bot’s social media account, including a Twitter bio or Facebook profile.
What the law aims to solve:
According to PC Magazine, California’s new law is timely, especially as government officials are preparing for the 2018 mid-term elections, and shoring up voting systems. One major goal of the bill is to avoid the bot problem that reared its ugly head during the 2016 election; social media platforms, such as Twitter, have been fighting this problem ever since.
While the law will cover the Golden State, not everyone will be protected from bots in disguise: “many of these bot campaigns originate overseas—particularly in Russia, according to US officials—so it’s unlikely a California law will deter foreign actors from unleashing their bots,” PC Magazine says.
California is also hitting turbulence before the law even goes into effect in nine months. According to PC Magazine, the bot law was overshadowed by net neutrality laws that were recently signed; these laws included Obama-era internet regulations, which instigated a lawsuit by the Trump Administration. As a result, it’s unclear how both bills will roll out, and how they will affect consumers; California-based decision makers and end users alike should consider watching how each case unfolds.