Facebook Political Ad Buyers Face Federal heat

If Federal Election Commission or FEC has its way, political advertisements paid for in Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) must include a number of disclosures, including who paid for them. If this motion is passed by the FEC, then it will be the first important move from the government to regulate political advertising that pops up on social media. The subject received widespread attention after it was revealed that some Moscow-affiliated groups used advertisements on Facebook, along with a couple of other social media platforms, to sway the US presidential election held in 2016.

The right step

Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic member of the FEC, said that tackling the Internet disclaimers is simply a minor issue. She said, however, it is a step towards the correct path, pointing out Americans must get the knowledge they require to examine the information being streamed online. She is a strong advocate for such a regulation.

Transparency advocates are already of the opinion that a far more effort is required. Congress is being pushed to pass a number of sweeping regulations as political parties are increasingly buying online advertising schemes. As per Borrell Associates, a media tracking company, in 2016, a total of $1.4 billion was spent on digital advertising to influence the outcome of many elections. This is noticeably more than $159 million spent during the 2012 elections on online advertisements.

Honest Ads Act

The Honest Ads Act comprising of two bills introduced in the Senate and in the House during October is deeper than what the federal regulators will cogitate on during the third week of December. These bills will require Facebook and other social media companies to make the copies of political advertisements available for review. The bills will, in addition, extend a number of campaign finance laws currently applied to radio and television advertisements and will extend it with a few needed alterations to the digital world. The bill also compels all the advertising platforms, regardless whether digital or broadcast, to make all 'reasonable efforts' to make sure that foreign interests are not financing the American political advertisements. As per the federal laws, nationals of other countries cannot spend in elections held in the United States.

In 2017, Facebook has disclosed that it had found political advertisements costing $100,000 by a Russian company. The company had links with the Kremlin. The majority of the advertisements concentrated on contentious issues like gay rights and immigration.

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