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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 1:00 am

Furthermore ...

Meddling bots increase influence

If you aren't bothered by news of 50,000 Russian bots meddling with American voters' Facebook feeds before the 2016 election, perhaps news of bots driving up the cost of Bruce Springsteen, Super Bowl or “Hamilton” tickets might get your attention.

Stateline.org reports an army of bots, created by sophisticated software, are descending on online ticket venues to snatch up hundreds of concert and performance tickets before individual buyers get a chance to select seats. The tickets are then sold on the secondary market at 10 or 20 times their face value.

“One broker used bots to buy 30,000 'Hamilton' tickets over 20 months – vacuuming up as much as 40 percent of available seats for some performances – according to a lawsuit by Ticketmaster,” Stateline.org said.

Springsteen's recent one-man show on Broadway found tickets with a $75 face value going for $1,400 on StubHub. 

Some artists are fight-ing back: Chance the Rapper bought up 2,000 tickets from scalpers to sell back to his fans, and Taylor Swift established a system designed to reward her most active fans.

A Ticketmaster spokesman said the company has invested millions to circumvent and block bots, but the problem can't be solved by technology alone.

Ticketmaster filed suit in California against brokers it claims used bots to buy tickets to “Hamilton” and the 2015 Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao boxing match. The $10 million suit is pending.

Efforts by federal and state governments have so far been unsuccessful in banning bot software. No cases have been brought by the Federal Trade Commission. 

A 2016 federal law – the BOTS act – doesn't apply to operations based overseas. Republican state Sen. John Kavanaugh, the sponsor of a bill banning bots, said the state measures are necessary “because the feds don't have the time or inclination to do enforcement.”