California Bans Automated Bots That Pretend To Be Human

California has banned bots that pretend to be human, a move that will help users avoid falling victim to automated messages hawking products or ideologies. Under the newly signed bill, these bots will need to disclose their nature, making it clear to the user that they're conversing with a machine rather than a human. Such as a message could be as simple as stating, "I am a bot."

The legislation was proposed back in April, the goal being disclosure to help prevent manipulation and the spread of fake news on social media. Automated accounts — "bots" — have grown in popularity over the last couple years, making it possible for humans to directly get information in a life-like manner without speaking to an actual human.

The legislation was proposed by Democratic State Senator Bob Hertzberg, and it requires companies to provide users with a way to report bots that they think are in violation of the new rules. The bill states:

It shall be unlawful for any person to use a bot to communicate or interact with another person in California online, with the intent to mislead the other person about its artificial identity for the purpose of knowingly deceiving the person about the content of the communication in order to incentivize a purchase or sale of goods or services in a commercial transaction or to influence a vote in an election. A person using a bot shall not be liable under this section if the person discloses that it is a bot.

As for the disclosure itself, the bill requires bots to make it clear what they are, being "conspicuous and reasonably designed." The bill was approved on September 28 and will go into effect on July 1, 2019.