Robert M. Hertzberg’s hatred of bots is personal. Mr. Hertzberg is a state Senator from California and last year, after he introduced a bail reform bill, he noticed that automated accounts on Twitter and Facebook were attacking him and his position.
He is currently seeking re-election, and one of his opponents in the Democratic primary was a bail agent. “The bail agents against me had hundreds of bots working in order to create the false impression that there were people against me,” Mr. Hertzberg said in a recent interview.
For example, he said, one account rapidly responded to tweets about the bill in real time with the message: “Unconstitutional bail reform doesn’t work and is racist.” So Mr. Hertzberg introduced another bill this year, the first of its kind in the United States, that would compel automated social media accounts to identify themselves as bots — in other words, to disclose their non-personhood. Get The Times for $15.99 $9.99/month.
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