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Bipartisan bill seeks to regulate political ads on Facebook, Twitter and Google

Bipartisan bill seeks to regulate political ads on Facebook, Twitter and Google
From TechCrunch - October 19, 2017

A new bipartisan bill known as the Honest Ads Act is the first major attempt to regulate online platforms that sell ads with rules akin to those that apply to more traditional advertising on TV, radio and in print.

The bill, introduced today by Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar, with a bipartisan boost from Republican Senator John McCain, imposes regulations on social platforms, websites, ad networks and other online entities with more than 50 million unique users per month.

As the bills announcement states:

Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election by buying and placing political ads on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. The content and purchaser(s) of those online advertisements are a mystery to the public because of outdated laws that have failed to keep up with evolving technology. The Honest Ads Act would prevent foreign actors from influencing our elections by ensuring that political ads sold online are covered by the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite.

Disclosures for ad financing would apply to any entity that purchases more than $500 in ads cumulatively across a platform, a fairly low threshold for disclosure that speaks to the potency of even small ad buys on platforms like Facebook.The bill would also place a reasonable expectation on social media companies to identify if the source of an ad buy is outside the U.S.

There will always be a case where things can fall through the cracks. What were trying to do here is start with a light touch, Warner said. We dont want to slow down innovation on the internet, we dont want to slow down technology.

As the top Democrat on the Senate Intel Committee, Warner has had a front row seat to the revelations around Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

In their press conference announcing the bill, the senators noted that Google and Facebook command 85 percent of online political ads. Who wouldnt want to know if the ad appearing next to your story was being paid for by a foreign power? Klobuchar asked.

Its creators hope that the bill can make its way through Congress before primary season begins, fending off or at least complicating further attempts by the Russian government to seed divisive political ads online.

Warner admitted that while the bill is a good start, it will still be difficult to identify accounts that are misrepresenting themselves to conceal where the money comes from.

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