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Campaign Bots & The Law

How Could Autonomous Agents Run Afoul of Election and Political Law?

Samuel Woolley

on 20 September 2016

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Transcript of Campaign Bots & The Law

Political Bots
#Polbot Uses
Drown out protest, dissent, opposition

Falsely promote political popularity

Mimic real voters, constituents, movements

Send out propaganda
Bots and the Law
Automated Politics
Political bots are among the most important recent innovations in political strategy and communication technology.

They are prevalent and persistent autonomous agents.

The noise, spam and manipulation inherent in bot deployment techniques will disrupt civic conversations and organization worldwide.
Analytical Goal
Bots are useful for
zombie electioneering
and astroturf legislative campaigns.

They can be used to
campaign strategy and messaging in complex ways.

They can be used to
voters for donations of money and time.
R. Calo, P. Howard, L. Manheim, S. Woolley
@pnhoward @samuelwoolley
Political bots
are algorithms for manipulating public opinion, choking off debate, and muddying political issues over social media.
We sketch out how election law may apply to the known and anticipated uses of political bots, concluding that bots introduce if anything greater uncertainty into an already murky legal domain.
Hence, a concern for election law
4 Questions
If bots begin coordinating and campaigning, would their authors run afoul of campaign expenditure rules?

Could bots autonomously coordinate across campaigns?

Could bots solicit donations from foreign nationals, federal contractors, or other restricted targets?

Will bots preserve the disclaimers required of a campaign's public communications?
Full transcript