New bill to criminalise ‘political bots’ on social media

James Lawless

James Lawless

A private member’s bill proposes the criminalisation of Internet “bots” to manipulate political discourse, The Irish Times reports.

The Online Advertising and Social Media (Transparency) Bill will be tabled by Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless in the Dáil tomorrow.

The bill will also require transparency on the funding of online political advertising, which is currently not as strictly regulated as print.

Mr Lawless said the problem of bots had “grown a lot”, with the use of automated accounts based in Russia alleged to have boosted the campaigns for Brexit and US President Donald Trump.

Mr Lawless said he was “used to the cut and thrust of online debates”, but bots were being used to “play the algorithms” and push fringe points of view into unsuspecting users’ news feeds.

Under the bill, online ads would have to display who is paying for the advertising and what audience is being targeted. It would be an offence to create multiple social media accounts to advance a political goal.