Sen. Amy Klobuchar thinks social media companies should be fined for bot activity

Social media firms should be more accountable after Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
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Social media firms should be more accountable after Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
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What's happening?

Minnesota's senior senator, Amy Klobuchar, has been talking to NBC's "Meet The Press" about actions that could be taken against social media companies and the proliferation of "bot" accounts.

She told the show that fining companies like Facebook and Twitter for failing to get rid of "bots" identified by the government would be a "great idea."

"These are the most sophisticated companies in America," she said. "They have brilliant people working there. They’ve got to put more resources — maybe it means making less profits off of ads and other things — but they’ve got to put the resources into Facebook and Twitter to stop these bots from dominating the accounts."

Why the focus on bots?

It comes after indictments filed in the Robert Mueller investigation allege that Russian companies used fake, automated accounts on social media to influence the outcome of the 2016 elections.

This has continued since then, with Russian-controlled bot accounts weighing in on the gun control debate that emerged post Las Vegas and Florida massacres.

As NPR reports, these accounts are used to push and amplify extreme opinions and conspiracy theories on both the left and right.

In doing so, Russia is seeking to enhance division among Americans, undermining the country's democracy and political stability.

TechCrunch reports the indictments revealed bots ran alongside disinformation accounts, where Russian actors posed as Americans on social media, pushing extremist theories that would in turn be amplified by bot accounts.

What is social media doing about them?

You might have seen the hashtag #TwitterPurge on Twitter a few weeks ago – that was because Twitter had identified and was removing thousands of bot accounts.

Some of the more extreme voices on the social media noticed that their follower numbers had dropped as a result of said purge.

However given the time it took social media sites to come to grips with its bot problem, Klobuchar is among those who believe they should be punished for their inaction in the future.

She did however express doubts that such punishment would be forthcoming, telling NBC "you need a Congress to act and there are too many people who are afraid of doing something about this because we know these sites are popular."

The senator has herself been a proponent of a bill called the "Honest Ads Act" that demands politic ads sold online follow the same rules as those on TV and radio.

It comes after Facebook and other social media sites were found to have accepted payments from Russian sources for ads aimed at shifting opinion during the 2016 elections.

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