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Social media bots are a real problem and California may regulate them

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Days after a New York Times investigation exposed Devumi, a company that sold Twitter users fake followers and bot retweet accounts; a California assemblyman wants the state to require these accounts be easily identified and ultimately linked to a human user. The bill introduced by Democratic legislator Marc Levine would require a disclaimer to be displayed for automated accounts on sites such as Facebook or Twitter. "From Big Tech to social media startups, it's clear that self-regulation is failing society and damaging our democracy," Levine said in a statement. Levine said the bill would also require that any advertising purchased on social media be made by accounts verified to be controlled by an actual person. "Sensible laws can finally bring accountability for unregulated and misleading use of social media," Levine said. In December 2017, USC researchers released a study that concluded, automated social media accounts had provided questionable claims about electronic cigarettes. Significant criticisms of bots and fake social media accounts surfaced after the 2016 US Presidential election. Last week, Twitter announced that it had notified 677,775 American Twitter users who had interacted with accounts run by a Kremlin-linked bot farm. The company also identified 50,258 Russian-linked bot accounts that tweeted around the election. California, a liberal Democratic stronghold that is also home to Silicon Valley, usually has more comprehensive regulation of technology companies. Levine's bill comes after the Attorney General for the Southern District of New York, Eric Schneiderman, announced an investigation into Devumi, the fake follower vendor that the New York Times…

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Writes about consumer technology, social media, digital services and tech policy. Is a gadget freak, gamer and Star Wars nerd.

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