The B.O.T. (“Bolstering Online Transparency”) Act, enacted last year pursuant to SB 1001, has gone into effect in California. As of July 1, it is unlawful for a person or entity to use a bot to communicate or interact online with a person in California in order to incentivize a sale or transaction of goods or services or to influence a vote in an election without disclosing that the communication is via a bot. The law defines a “bot” as “an automated online account where all or substantially all of the actions or posts of that account are not the result of a person.” The required disclosure must be clear, conspicuous, and reasonably designed to inform persons with whom the bot communicates or interacts that it is a bot.
The law is the first of its kind enacted by a state legislature and applies only to communications with persons in California. In addition, it applies only to public-facing Internet Web sites, applications, or social networks that have at least 10 million monthly U.S. visitors or users. While the law contains no private right of action and expressly “does not impose a duty on service providers of online platforms,” failure to abide by the disclosure requirement, as enforced by the Attorney General, may constitute a violation of California’s unfair competition laws and result in fines and equitable remedies.