California's election authorities have approved new regulations requiring that ads in new media contain the same types of disclosures as ads that appear on TV, radio or other traditional media.
The new rules require that most online ads, including email ads sent to more than 200 recipients, include "clear and conspicuous" disclosures about who paid for the spots. The rules were approved late last week by the state's Fair Political Practices Commission.
Under the new regulations, candidates or committees running larger display ads must make the disclosure "in letters at least as large as the majority of text." For smaller units, including paid text ads of no more than 500 characters, disclosures can be made through rollover displays or links to a page with disclosures.
Where space is even more limited, such as in SMS ads, the committee need only include the number they were assigned by the state Fair Political Practices Commission and, "when technologically possible," a link to the committee's page on the Secretary of State's campaign finance site. Presumably, pay-per-click search ads would be treated like SMS ads, but the new regulations don't specifically mention search.
The new regulations appear consistent with a recent decision of the Federal Election Commission. That agency said last month that disclosure requirements in search ads need not include all of the typical disclaimers as long as the ad "displays the URL of the committee sponsor's website ... and the landing page contains a full disclaimer."