Lawmakers Float New Regulations For Online Political Ads

Two Senate Democrats are trying to rally support for legislation that would require Facebook and other large web platforms to follow some of the same disclosure rules for political ads as broadcasters.

On Thursday, Sens. Amy Klobucar (D-Minnesota) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia) circulated a letter seeking co-sponsors for a bill aimed at increasing transparency of political ads.

The measure would require web platforms with more than 1 million users to maintain publicly available files of all ads purchased by anyone who spends more than $10,000 in online political advertising. The letter, which was obtained by MediaPost, also proposes that the public files include copies of the ads, descriptions of the targeted audience, number of views generated, and rates charged, among other information.

The Federal Election Commission "has failed to take sufficient action to address online political advertisements and our current laws do not adequately address online political advertisements published on platforms like Google, Facebook and Twitter," Klobuchar and Warner write in the "Dear Colleague" missive, which was obtained by MediaPost.

The lawmakers also propose that digital platforms "make reasonable efforts" to ensure that foreign nationals don't purchase political ads. Broadcast, cable and satellite providers already are subject to that requirement.

The new Senate initiative comes two weeks weeks after Facebook revealed that accounts connected to Russia purchased around 3,000 political ads for $100,000 between June of 2015 to May of 2017. On Thursday, Facebook said it will turn over those ads to Congress. The company also said it will allow users to see all of the political ads an advertiser runs. CEO Mark Zuckerberg also announced that Facebook will disclose which page paid for political ads. 

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