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Texas lawmakers won’t shake it off. A new bill aims to stop ticket grabs by bots for hot concerts like Taylor Swift’s.

By Jayme Lozano Carver, The Texas Tribune

Texas lawmakers won’t shake it off. A new bill aims to stop ticket grabs by bots for hot concerts like Taylor Swift’s.” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Millions of Taylor Swift fans were seeing red when jammed queues and sold-out shows stopped them from retrieving their golden ticket to see the pop star’s Eras Tour earlier this year. Now, Texas House lawmakers are expected to pass a bill Saturday to address the bad blood between fans and bots.

State Rep. Kronda Thimesch of Lewisville is sponsoring House Bill 2444. The Republican said that disruptions in ticket sales, such as webpages crashing or tickets going fast, are often caused by bots. Ticket scalpers use bots that are programmed to bypass security functions and allow them to buy more tickets than allowed. This kept tickets out of the hands of fans, an issue Thimesch said she knew all too well.

“My daughter was one of the unfortunate fans who was unable to purchase tickets to the Eras Tour when they went on sale because of bots,” Thimesch said during a recent public hearing.

The Eras ticket fiasco led to heartbreak for many fans who had to wait for hours in Ticketmaster’s online queues, only to find out that tickets were already sold out. Verified fan codes weren’t helping the situation, and, adding insult to injury, scalpers were reselling tickets soon after Ticketmaster had to shut purchasing down. Even nosebleed seats were going at significantly higher prices.

The anger from Swifties reverberated across the country. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing about the ticket mess, and fans are hoping to get their own revenge against Ticketmaster and Live Nation by suing for unlawful conduct.

Despite fans carefully planning their day around the botched ticket release for Swift’s anticipated tour, many were left with an intense bout of FOMO — fear of missing out — as they faced a cruel summer without tickets. Alex Agnew, a Lubbock resident, was on the same mission as millions of Swifties, but not for himself: He wanted to surprise his wife, Avery, who is a new mother, with tickets for her and her friends.

Agnew signed up for the presale tickets and logged on 15 minutes early.

Then he waited.

Lunch passed by; then it was time to go home for the day; then it was dinner. He had to refresh the queue a few times because of crashes. In the meantime, he would intermittently check Twitter to see if other people were able to buy tickets.

“It was kind of mind-boggling how some people would get the opportunity to purchase right away while others wait for hours,” Agnew said. “I probably wasn’t as nervous as some Swifties were, but I didn’t know how many they had set aside for presale.”

Ame Noordenbos, a friend of Agnew’s wife who was helping him, wasn’t feeling as calm as he was. They weren’t purchasing through Ticketmaster, but she saw what other people were going through trying to get tickets through the company.

“I was pretty stressed out about it,” Noordenbos recalled. “I was seeing videos of people getting kicked out of Ticketmaster’s queue all day.”

The proposed legislation would stop individuals from using technology that allows them to bypass security measures in ticketing systems, such as disguising the identity of the purchaser or allowing them to purchase more tickets than allowed. The bill will also have violators face civil penalties, including hefty fines, to be enforced by the attorney general.

An identical bill in the Senate, Senate Bill 1639 authored by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, has been positively received by lawmakers and successfully passed out of the Senate. Lawmakers will have to pick one piece of legislation to send to the governor.

Jas Sajjan with Live Nation Entertainment testified in favor of the bill. Ticketing companies spend millions of dollars to ensure their digital security can prevent mayhem with ticket sales for tours like Eras, but Sajjan said there are so many bots that it’s become a game of whack-a-mole.

“This bill takes a step forward during a time we’re seeing more bot activity than ever,” Sajjan said.

Zach Anderson, president of TicketCity, also testified, saying the company was in favor of the intent of the bill but was concerned the bill, as written, would have unintended consequences for legitimate ticketing businesses in Texas. Anderson suggested a substitute for the bill that prohibits the use or creations of bots for purchases, instead of prohibitions on all online ticket sales or resales.

All’s well that ends well in the Agnew household. After a long 10 hours of staring at his iPad, Agnew was finally able to purchase tickets. The seat options were limited since so many tickets had already been purchased by then, but he had them. On Christmas morning, his wife unscrambled a puzzle that said she was going to the Eras Tour.

“First she screamed, and then she started crying a little bit,” Agnew recalled. “The baby got scared a little bit and so he started crying, and it was a little crazy in our house. Lots of crying, but excited crying.”

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