“Senators Demand Online Ad Disclosures as Tech Lobby Mobilizes”

NYT:

Senator John McCain and two Democratic senators moved on Thursday to force Facebook, Google and other internet companies to disclose who is purchasing online political advertising, after revelations that Russian-linked operatives bought deceptive ads in the run-up to the 2016 election with no disclosure required.

But the tech industry, which has worked to thwart previous efforts to mandate such disclosure, is mobilizing an army of lobbyists and lawyers — including a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s campaign — to help shape proposed regulations. Long before the 2016 election, the adviser, Marc E. Elias, helped Facebook and Google request exemptions from the Federal Election Commission to existing disclosure rules, arguing that ads on the respective platforms were too small to fit disclaimers listing their sponsors.

Now Mr. Elias’s high-powered Democratic election law firm, Perkins Coie, is helping the companies navigate legal and regulatory issues arising from scrutiny of the Russian-linked ads, which critics say might have been flagged by the disclaimers. In a two-front war, tech companies are targeting an election commission rule-making process that was restarted last month and a legislative effort in the Senate.

According to Sen. Klobuchar’s press release, the bill (whose text I don’t believe has yet been released) would change existing law by:

  • Amending the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002’s definition of electioneering communication to include paid Internet and digital advertisements.

  • Requiring digital platforms with at least 50,000,000 monthly viewers to maintain a public file of all electioneering communications purchased by a person or group who spends more than $500.00 total on ads published on their platform. The file would contain a digital copy of the advertisement, a description of the audience the advertisement targets, the number of views generated, the dates and times of publication, the rates charged, and the contact information of the purchaser.

  • Requiring online platforms to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate.

I’ll have more to say when I can see the actual legislation.

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