The Federal Trade Commission has sent a report to Congress on the use of social media bots in online advertising. The report summarizes the market for these bots and outlines the Commission’s past enforcement work and authority in this area, including cases involving automated programs on social media that mimic the activity of real people.
The report notes research showing that the market for social media bots is thriving and out in the open, and that it remains easy, cheap, and effective to sell, buy, and use these bots for commercial purposes. It also notes that bots are used on social media for many other purposes, both good and malicious, that they range from simple to sophisticated, and that they can be difficult to detect despite the continuing efforts of platforms, researchers, and others to combat them.
The report also describes the Commission’s previous law enforcement activity related to social media bots and other inauthentic online activity, highlighting the Commission’s case against Devumi, a company that sold fake followers, likes, and subscribers on social media accounts. The report notes that the FTC Act’s prohibition on unfair and deceptive acts and practices can apply to these sorts of cases depending on the specific facts.
The Commission vote to issue the report to the Senate Committee on Appropriations was 4-0-1, with Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter recorded as not participating. Commissioner Rohit Chopra issued a statement.