Starting in July, California will begin to heavily regulate chatbots that pose as humans. The law prohibits any bot from interacting with a person in purchase/sale transactions and political influencing without disclosing the artificiality of the bot.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the law, signed into action by Governor Jerry Brown last month, seeks to create a more transparent environment where bots are concerned. State Senator Bob Hertzberg introduced the law after concerns that Russian bots were spreading misinformation on social media during the 2016 election and in the wake of the Parkland shooting. The law, as it stands, prohibits bots from interacting with Californians in commercial transactions or influencing voters in an election without disclosing their artificial nature.
“It’s really a concept of fraud,” Hertzberg said of the bill. “Where somebody goes out and gives a false impression of being a human being when they’re really a bot.”
Though the law has noble intentions, several parties have been quick to analyze holes in its enforcement, not the least of which is jurisdiction. Since it remains only at state-level in California, the law would struggle to prove effective against bad actors operating outside of the state.
Tiffany Olson Kleemann, CEO of Distil Networks, noted that determining the nature of the bots may prove difficult as well. “They’re not going to be raising their hands saying, ‘Hey I’m a bad bot and I’m trying to launch a credential attack or steal your identity,’” she said. There is also concern that the law may also unfairly punish legitimate businesses who use bots in non-malicious ways.
Under the law, offenders would be tried as committing fraud, and as such, penalties would be comparable to the various forms of fraud already outlawed. Twitter and other companies have already begun purging bot accounts from their site to ready their businesses for the law’s arrival in July.
Marketers and legitimate businesses currently utilizing chatbots as part of their strategy will want to prepare for this law and make sure that their bots fully and clearly disclose their nature when they begin interactions with the public. For more tips about how to properly utilize chatbots, check out our recent article on the dos and don’ts.