Bill would regulate political ads on social media
Tech companies including Google and Facebook will have to reveal the buyers of online political ads if a proposed Senate bill becomes law.
The bill, called the Honest Ads Act, demands that major online services keep a public file on political ad purchases, which anyone—such as voters and journalists—can access. It would also force tech companies to include disclaimers on each online political ad, identifying who sponsored them.
The three US Senators behind the bill, two Democrats and Republican John McCain, drafted the legislation in response to Russia's suspected attempts to influence last year's presidential election.
Some of those efforts involved purchasing political ads on Facebook, Google, and Twitter, the senators said in a statement. But outdated campaign laws prevent the public from knowing the identity of the buyers, they added.
Facebook itself has already revealed that a group likely based in Russia bought $100,000 worth of ads during this past presidential election cycle that focused on socially divisive issues like gun rights and immigration. But the company made the disclosure last month, well after the election, and amid pressure from US lawmakers.
The social media companies "were frankly late to the game," in acknowledging these problems, said bill co-sponsor Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, in a Thursday press conference.
"This is brand new area of conflict, and a brand new era of vulnerability," he added.
The new bill would apply to digital platforms with over 50 million monthly viewers, and to political ad buyers that cumulatively spend over $500. The bill also demands that online services make "reasonable efforts" to stop foreign entities from purchasing political ads.
Online ads, however, were only one component of Russia's suspected attempts to influence last year's election. In addition to hacking activities, the Kremlin may have also used fake user accounts on Facebook and Twitter to manipulate voter sentiment.
Warner, ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russia's role in the election, said the Honest Ads Act is a starting point to tackle the overall problem, and he's hopeful that Facebook and other companies will come up with ideas to combat fake online accounts. He also warned that the online political ad spending will only increase, making greater transparency vital.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, is also a co-sponsor. In the House, Reps. Derek Kilmer, a Washington Democrat, and Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican, have introduced companion legislation.
By: Michael Kan
Next Article Previous Article