The Federal Election Commission should not require political advertisers to run the same kinds of disclaimers in their online video ads as in television ads, the Silicon Valley trade group Internet Association says.
Instead, the organization argues in an FEC filing, political video ads online should include "a one-click away disclaimer or a disclaimer within the frame of the ad."
"Hovering over a video, clicking text below the video, or providing a full print disclaimer below the ad would all provide more robust transparency than burying a disclaimer at the end of a web video," the Internet Association writes.
The group's papers come in response to the FEC's call for comments on proposals with regard to online disclaimers. In March, the FEC said it was considering two new proposals that would apply to digital ads served on desktops, smartphones and apps. One proposal calls for information about the sponsor in the ad itself, and the second would allow that information to be presented in other formats, including via in-ad links.
The organization argues that TV-style disclaimers -- which usually come at the end of an ad -- aren't practical for online video, where users can click out of the ad before hearing the disclaimer. The group adds that online ads tend to be shorter than 30-second TV spots -- which means that a TV-style disclaimer would take up a larger proportion of the ad's time.
The Internet Association also contends that the FEC lacks the authority to require TV-like disclaimers for online ads.
The group is also urging the FEC to allow "adaptive disclaimers," like the new political-ad icon created by the self-regulatory group Digital Advertising Alliance. "Rather than trying to fit a 'paid for by' notice on an ad that may change in size when delivered on different platforms or devices, the adaptive disclaimer would be inserted into the ad and be visible and accessible in all formats," the Internet Association writes.
Not everyone agrees with Silicon Valley's proposals. The consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge argues in favor of extending -- and strengthening -- the full disclaimer requirements that currently govern ads in traditional media to the internet. "As political advertising increasingly migrates online, it makes little sense for online advertisements to be subject to lesser disclaimer requirements than broadcast or print advertisements. This is particularly true when the same advertisement can run on television and on the internet or in print and on the internet," the group writes.
Public Knowledge also says that online ads that combine different forms of media -- like video with text -- should include multiple formats of disclaimers. "Because the Commission should assume that only part of the advertisement may be accessed, the Commission should require that multimedia political advertisements adhere to the disclaimer requirements associated with their component parts – that is, the requirements both for video/audio (as appropriate) advertisements and for print advertisement."
The advocacy group also argues that the FEC should standardize any images, symbols or icons used for adapted disclaimers.
"The importance of a Commission-selected standard indicator cannot be overstated," Public Knowledge writes. "Should the Commission permit each advertiser to adopt its own symbol, image, or icon, the Commission runs the risk of galvanizing a 'race to the bottom' with advertisers competing to come up with the most obscure icon."