A Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing reveals that Google is "urging" regulators to consider tougher and explicit rules around online advertisements. It could also mean banning foreign companies, governments and other entities from purchasing ads around election time that focus on issues and candidates.
The filing, submitted Thursday, comes during a time when Google, Facebook, Twitter and others prepare to talk with regulators in the nation's capital about ways to prevent the Russian government and other countries from meddling in U.S. politics, according to one report.
Google, Facebook and Twitter have all found evidence of Russian influence during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. All have taken independent action on their respective platforms to identify and prevent it from happening again, but Google says the company's circumstance is different because it allows political ads to serve through its search engine, website with its ad-serving platform called AdSense, and video site YouTube.
Google also is considering requiring all election-related advertisers to use an icon that would appear when hovering over the ad, which would tell the searchers or site visitor why they are seeing it, according to the report.
But in Google's case, challenges go far beyond media buys and ad placements. It's not just advertisements, but free organic content through search engine optimization with the potential to rank high above other content in search query results. In this case the Russian-backed political content could rank above those of other advertisers, especially when the topic branches into other areas.
The Russian influence appears to go much further than political ads. Bloomberg reports that Texas Republican Lamar Smith -- also the chairman of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology -- sent letters to the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter on Sept. 27, asking for any documents or communications related to Russian-bought ads that attempted to manipulate U.S. energy markets or criticized fossil fuel production.