Senator Klobuchar Thinks We Need To Start Fining Social Media Companies For Not Removing Bots Fast Enough
from the nothing-more-automated-than-a-knee-jerk dept
Cool. Let’s just throw more legislation at the problem.
Social media giants Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. should be fined if they don’t weed out automated accounts, or bots, trying to influence U.S. public opinion, said Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar.
“I think that would be a great idea,” Klobuchar, of Minnesota, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday when asked whether the companies should face fines if they fail to act after the government discovers the bots.
First, let’s stop giving politicians bad ideas. Whoever prompted this response from Klobuchar has bits on their hands if this ever becomes law. Klobuchar can come up with her own bad ideas. There’s absolutely no reason journalists should be floating ideas containing First Amendment collateral damage. Let Klobuchar come up with her own terrible legislation. It’s not like she hasn’t done it before.
Second, what the hell does this even mean? Weeding out all bots is impossible. Weeding out those the government has noticed might be doable, but they’ll likely be replaced with new ones as soon as they’re deleted. On top of that, forcing large platforms to cull anything that resembles automation is going to do damage to legitimate accounts that schedule posts in advance and it might result in the removal of truly useful bots, like Brad Heath’s Big Cases bot — one that trawls federal court RSS feeds for cases of interest and posts publicly-available copies of filings locked behind the government’s PACER paywall.
Such a task is unfeasible. Legislation like this would only serve as a platform for political grandstanding. Fining tech companies for violations of terms of service by users is ridiculous. It’s not as though we don’t have enough ongoing threats to service provider immunity. Twitter and Facebook are already trying to wrestle with bot problems, but criminalizing the mere existence of bots doesn’t solve the problem. It just makes it easier for the government to monetize the very behavior reps are claiming they want to stamp out. It’s an incentive with a government perversion attached.
And Klobuchar, of course, has no idea how platforms with hundreds of millions of users will implement the No Bots Allowed law. All she knows is it’s their problem and they’re smart enough to figure it out on their own.
“These are the most sophisticated companies in America,” Klobuchar said. “They have brilliant people working there. I believe that they’ve got to put more resources — maybe it means they make less profits off of ads and other things — but they’ve got to put the resources into Facebook and Twitter to stop these bots from dominating the accounts.”
Of course! The nerds will do it! They’ll take all of the blame and receive none of the credit while the federal government gets into the business of running social media platforms. If a company doesn’t have the money to do it (smaller startups), then they just don’t get to play. And if platforms struggle financially attempting to please the government while shedding users, so be it. If destroying American companies (and damaging the internet) is what it takes to take down the Russian bot menace, no price (paid by others) is too high.
Finally, there’s a good chance the implementation of a law like this would push social media platforms to demand even more personal information from users, eliminating truly anonymous speech and possibly endangering lives/livelihoods of pseudonymous users. Fortunately, these seem to be off-the-cuff response based on a bad set of improv prompts from Meet the Press hosts. But Klobuchar has pushed bad legislation in the past and there’s no time like the present to pretend the US government can somehow legislate away foreign influence in US politics.