Bots Research Act (HR 2860, 116th Congress)

Policy Details

Policy Details

Originating Entity
Last Action
Referred to Committee
Date of Last Action
May 21 2019
Congressional Session
116th Congress
Date Introduced
May 21 2019
Publication Date
Nov 4 2019

SciPol Summary

The Bots Research Act orders the establishment of a task force that would investigate automated accounts, such as social bots, which are primarily automated computer programs that communicate autonomously on social media. The expert group would be appointed by the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission and would include, at minimum, one member each from academia, industry, non-profit organizations, and the government.

The task force would aim to define what qualifies as an automated account, assess their current usage, and recommend how to address their potential adverse effects on social media, public discourse, and elections. In doing so, the expert group should consider the promotion of technological innovation, cybersecurity, and continuous review processes to safeguard First Amendment and other constitutional rights, as well as the integrity of elections. Within one year after its establishment, the task force shall report its findings to Congress and relevant Federal agencies.

Prominent examples, such as the Mueller Report, provide evidence for the systematic influence of such automated accounts. For instance, an analysis published in 2018 by the National Bureau of Economic Research estimates that social bots contributed significantly to the election of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race. A previous version of this bill (HR 7117) was introduced in the 115th Congress immediately prior to the 2018 Midterm Election.

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