Democrats announce bill to stop bots from stealing Christmas

Politicians attempt to resurrect the Stopping Grinch Bots Act as the 2021 holiday shopping season hits full stride.

Attila Tomaschek
Attila is a Staff Writer for CNET, covering software, apps and services with a focus on virtual private networks. He is an advocate for digital privacy and has been quoted in online publications like Computer Weekly, The Guardian, BBC News, HuffPost, Wired and TechRepublic. When not tapping away on his laptop, Attila enjoys spending time with his family, reading and collecting guitars.
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Attila Tomaschek
2 min read
Graffiti proclaiming the cancellation of Christmas, featuring the Dr. Seuss Grinch character

Lawmakers are trying to stop Grinch bots from ruining the holidays.

Adam Berry/Getty Images

A group of Democratic lawmakers from the House and Senate on Monday introduced the Stopping Grinch Bots Act in an attempt to curb the trend of bots scooping up entire inventories of the hottest holiday gifts online and selling them at often ridiculously inflated prices. These so-called Grinch bots make it virtually impossible to get popular gifts online at retail prices, forcing online shoppers to overpay or miss out.

Rep. Paul Tonko of New York along with Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Charles Schumer (New York) and Ben Ray Luján (New Mexico) introduced the bill. 

"These bots don't just squeeze consumers, they pose a problem for small businesses, local retailers and other entrepreneurs trying to ensure they have the best items in stock for their customers," Tonko said in a release. "Our Grinch Bots Act works to level the playing field and prevent scalpers from sucking hard-working parents dry this holiday season. I urge my colleagues to join me in passing this legislation immediately to stop these Grinch bots from stealing the holiday."

Grinch bots leverage sophisticated software algorithms to execute automated actions that can be set to constantly monitor and scrape sites for info on things like prices and inventory stock to snatch up products well before any human would realistically have a chance. The bots also bypass security measures put into place by online retailers specifically intended to curb such practices. 

Some of the same lawmakers introduced the same bill in 2018, but that didn't end up going anywhere. It remains to be seen whether this go-round will be any different.