Purging Russian bots and trolls from politics may backfire: Guestview

Beware of politicians trying to make the internet “honest again.” Democratic lawmakers responding to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election want to increase the regulation of the internet, from a dubiously named “Honest Ads Act” to the fining of sites for suspicious posters, to increased use of national security laws to scrutinize posters. Most of these measures would have had little if any impact on the Russian operation, but they could open the door to significantly curtailing free speech on the internet.

There are three areas of illicit Russian activities: hacks of emails, attempts to compromise voting systems, and using posts and protesters to foment division. The first two areas are major threats that should be and can be addressed with new federal programs. However, after the recent indictment of 13 Russian nationals by special counsel Robert Mueller, politicians instead called for stripping away anonymity for internet ads and cracking down on bots and trolls.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has declared that 240 years after our founding, “our democracy is at risk. Russia attacked our elections, and they and other foreign powers and interests will continue to divide our country if we don’t act now.” However, “they” did not “divide our country.” We divided our country long before the Russians started posting juvenile pictures of Hillary Clinton in prison garb.

Clinton and Trump were the least popular candidates ever to run for the presidency, according to multiple polls. We were already a nation plunging into political chaos with the selection of these two candidates and long simmering political divisions stretching back to the Bill Clinton administration.

There are hundreds of “legitimate” Democratic and Republican trolling sites (some supported by campaign activities) that did little but generate gossip, conspiracies and false stories. Hillary Clinton was infamous for her association with characters like Sidney Blumenthal and David Brock. Trump had dubious allies…

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