Senators push for more online transparency in elections

Senators push for more online transparency in elections

Senators push for more online transparency in elections

McCain is signing on to the legislation drafted by Democratic Sens.

The effort was sparked by the revelation that Facebook sold more than $100,000 worth of ads to a Kremlin-linked Russian company during the 2016 election; Google later revealed it had sold $4,700 worth of similar ads.

Senators are moving to boost transparency for online political ads, unveiling on Thursday what could be the first of several pieces of legislation to try to lessen influence from Russian Federation or other foreign actors on US elections.

Tech companies have been resistant to past attempts to regulate them, and Warner previously has been critical of social media platforms' slowness to cooperate with the Russian Federation investigation underway at Senate Intelligence Committee, which he vice-chairs.

"We know that our next election is only 383 days away", Senator Klobuchar said.

If lawmakers have anything to do with it, political ads on Facebook, Google, Twitter and other online platforms may soon be subject to the same disclosure requirements as traditional political advertising.

"Ensuring transparency and accountability remain encoded into our democracy in the 21st century has taken on new importance and relevance in the wake of the 2016 election", said Alexander B. Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, which has been a loud voice for campaign reforms, including heightened disclosures for political ads. "If a candidate or a cause buys an ad on TV, the same rules should apply if they buy it on Facebook or Google or on Twitter". Warner said Thursday that "it is in their own self interest to work with us", pointing to the consumer trust that those companies depend on, and called the legislation a "light touch approach".


Representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google are scheduled to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on November 1 in an open hearing. Republican Senator John McCain announced his support for the bill earlier this week and has since been added as a co-sponsor.

"I don't really care what they're called - what I care about is that they are selling ads, they have huge departments of people selling ads [and] they're making money off it, just like TV, just like radio does", she said.

"We stand with lawmakers in their effort to achieve transparency in political advertising", Erin Egan, Facebook vice president for United States public policy, said in a statement after Warner and Klobuchar introduced their bill.

His knowledge of the Washington landscape helped him negotiate a 2011 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, which had charged Facebook with deceiving consumers about whether it would keep their data private.

The legislation from the three senators would put online ads under the same rules as television, radio and satellite, so that who paid for them and other information would need to be disclosed. For 99% of the ads, less than $1,000 was spent. So far, Facebook, Google and Twitter have all confirmed that they unknowingly sold ads to Russian groups.

An ad-buyer could reach up to nearly 4 million Americans in 24 hours by spending $9,999 - a dollar under the $10,000 limit - according to estimates on Facebook's ad platform reviewed by CNN.

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