Nitpicky? Hell yes.

Main Menu

Free Speech and Bots

Started by Recusant, November 28, 2018, 05:52:15 AM

Previous topic - Next topic


California recently passed a law requiring that bots promoting a political agenda or product for sale must identify themselves as bots. It seems inevitable that the law will be challenged, and if it gets to the US Supreme Court, given its recent rulings, there seems to be a good chance that it will rule against the California law.

"Do Bots Have First Amendment Rights?" | Politico

QuoteOnce again, Facebook's management is contorting itself over reports that it denied and ignored Russian trolls and bots that had infested its platform to sway the 2016 election. But even as Facebook has vowed to stamp out these malicious bots, it and other platforms have pushed their own chatbots as the next wave in communication and marketing. These charming, chatty bots that currently pervade Facebook Messenger largely focus on selling stuff and otherwise interacting with business customers.

Of course, anyone who has interacted with even the most sophisticated bots today can quickly tell the bot is not human. They lack flexibility, return too quickly to a script or simply provide anodyne and evasive answers in order to stall for time. Nevertheless, when they operate on a narrow band, they can perform well. Google's Duplex can book a hair salon appointment or restaurant reservation in ways that are eerily convincing.

But as bots continue to develop their own machine learning intelligence, does it make sense to ask whether they themselves have rights equivalent to the humans they are imitating?

"There is a rough consensus among experts that automated speech such as that generated by online bots" at least implicates the First Amendment, writes law professor Ryan Calo of the University of Washington School of Law. Those rights may yield to other important interests, but any law or regulation of bots, Calo argues, must at least grapple with the First Amendment right of those using the bots, or of the bots themselves.

The question of bot-speech-rights suddenly took on real-world significance this summer when California passed what is, perhaps, the first bot law. This law, going into effect next summer, requires online bots to identify themselves as bots, at least those that interact with human beings trying to sell stuff or promote a candidate in an election.

The motivation for the law was clear: Russian bots had infected our election. They spread fake news, and even when their bots promoted true stories, those stories tended to drown out organic discussion among real Americans. The bots could trigger trends of Russia's preferred stories, distorting the entire discourse. California's law, therefore, seems to many a sensible balance between free speech and regulation. "The law is the right call," said Helen Norton, a law professor at the University of Colorado Law School studying free speech in the contemporary landscape. In a democracy, she said, voters need to know where their messages are coming from. Professor Toni Massaro at the University of Arizona College of Law agreed: "I think states should be given some room to experiment with these things. Whether they'll be given the room by the Roberts court remains to be seen."

[Continues . . .]
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


If religions were TV channels atheism is turning the TV off.
"Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt." ― Richard P. Feynman
'It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it's called Life.' - Terry Pratchett
Remember, your inability to grasp science is not a valid argument against it.