Civil Discourse Now

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Putin's "bots" and The First Amendment

   The Declaration of Independence says all are created equal and are endowed with certain unalienable rights that include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
   The right to freedom of speech, particularly political speech, is amongst those most protected of our rights. The Declaration does not distinguish between nationalities.
   We need not delve into rights of people here legally yet without status as citizens and the rights of those here illegally to resolve the issue of whether Russian bots that jam the internet are entitled to protections of the First Amendment.
   An article from The Washington Post this weekend noted Russian bots’ “omnipresence is evident on Twitter, where one recent study suggested that trolling by pro-Putin bots dominates political talk about Russia, and in the comments section of publications like The Washington Post, where trolls can be found criticizing the premises, lambasting other posters and accusing one another of being trolls.” Filipov, “The notorious Kremlin-linked ‘troll farm’ and the Russians trying to take it down,” 10/08/17.
   In other words, that might not be your idiotic brother-in-law who posts ignorant ravings on the internet. A computer is programmed to monitor various places on the internet for specific phrases. When one, or more, of the phrases is used, the computer swings into action and deploys bots.
   In the years ahead, we might have to debate whether “artificial intelligence”—i.e.,
Computers as entities on a scale with humans—enjoys protections of the First Amendment. Until then, in a pre-quantum computer era, even with the decision of Citizens United and its extension of some rights to corporate entities (and corporations are not people, my friend—computer-launched attacks that seek only to jam our national conversations hardly can be said to constitute protected free speech.
   Then again, when we begin to referee what is “true” speech and what is not, we enter areas in which people like Vladimir Putin and his would-be apprentice in our Oval Office can use an opening to stop speech critical of them.
   We have to look at how our 2016 elections, and our daily conversation, were and are dominated by machines that operate from a building in a country (Russia) run by a dictator who wants to sow chaos in democratic societies.
   Though programmed by humans, bots operate as machines. One might say the computer on which I write this blog is a machine and I have a right to free speech.
   The computer people who work for Putin, et al, have gamed our system.  Maybe I should correct that statement. They gamed our American system out of existence. 

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