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Sen. Marsha Blackburn Introduces Bill Seeking to Strengthen BOTS Act

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Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) is planning to roll out new legislation to beef up the BOTS ACT and combat the growing use of automated software to attack high-demand online ticket sales for major concert tours.

In November 2022, unknown individuals attacked Taylor Swift’s ticket sale for her Eras tour, using automated software to overwhelm the Ticketmaster platform and prevent some fans from accessing tickets.

The BOTS ACT, co-authored by Blackburn at the end of 2016 and signed into law by then-president Barack Obama, outlawed the use of bots to attack ticket sales and jump the line to buy tickets ahead of consumers, but the law has only been enforced once in the seven years it’s been on the books. Blackburn is hoping to change that with the adoption of the Mitigating Automated Internet Networks for (MAIN) Event Ticketing Act, a bill she co-authored with Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) that would create new reporting requirements for online ticket sellers attacked by Bots and enact new security requirements for sites like Ticketmaster.

“A fan should be able to buy tickets to live events without bots stealing them and hiking the price,” said Sen. Blackburn in a press release provided to Billboard.

Under the BOTS Act, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has exclusive power to file suit against bot users and work with FBI and DOJ officials to bring criminal charges. Individuals caught intentionally breaking the law can face civil fines of $10,000 per violation.

“We have given the FTC the tools they need to help reduce ticket costs and protect consumers and artists from scammers,” Blackburn adds. “Now we must ensure they are enforcing it. This bipartisan legislation builds upon my work to safeguard artists and their fans in the online ticket marketplace.”

The new legislation would create a new forum for online ticket sellers have to report successful bot attacks to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and create a complaint database so consumers can also share their experiences with the FTC, and various state attorneys general. The bill also includes evolving data security requirements for online ticket sellers and requires the sharing of information between the FTC and law enforcement; as well as an annual report from the FTC to Congress on BOTS enforcement.

“Live entertainment is one of America’s greatest pastimes, and all Americans should be able to enjoy it without the fear of being scammed,” said Senator Luján. “I’m proud to join Senator Blackburn in introducing legislation to expand the BOTS Act. This bill will allow the FTC to enforce safeguards and set requirements to protect consumers from online ticketing schemes.”

Officials from Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster told Billboard they supported the legislation, saying in a statement: “We commend Senators Blackburn and Lujan for introducing this update to the BOTS Act. Ticketmaster leads the industry in fighting bots, and we see first-hand that scalper bot armies are only getting larger and more sophisticated. Scalpers make billions each year, and until there are real consequences, they will continue to rob fans of tickets at the onsale which is why we’ve long supported much stronger enforcement.”

The bill has also received the support of the National Independent Venue Association which issued a statement applauding Blackburn and Luján for “introducing the MAIN Event Ticketing Act to further crackdown on ticket-buying bots that rob fans of the opportunity to see their favorite artists. The Act builds on the BOTS Act of 2016, which put in place foundational guidelines to prevent ticket resellers from engaging in predatory ticketing practices. We believe in restoring trust in the ticketing experience for fans, and we stand ready to work with Senators Blackburn and Luján to ensure this legislation advances as part of critical comprehensive ticketing reform.”

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