Congress seeks transparent online political spending with Honest Ads Act

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Suspicious Facebook ads from the 2016 campaign

A bipartisan trio of USA senators has introduced legislation to regulate paid political ads that appear on Facebook, Google, and other social media in an effort to prevent foreign interference in US elections, with special emphasis placed on alleged actions by Russian Federation. This disclosure bill was drafted by Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner; soon after Republican Sen.

In addition to turning over a cache of roughly 3,000 Russia-linked ads to Congress, Facebook has said it plans to require advertisers to disclose which page paid for a post and enable anyone to see which ads a page is running.

Warner and Klobuchar said they were working with the companies and think the legislation is stronger than when they began, but also argued that voluntarily disclosing political ads would not cut it. That includes copies of those ads, as well as information about the organizations that purchased it, the audiences the ad might have targeted and how much it cost.

"We hope this bill, which merits serious consideration, catalyzes an overdue public debate and substantive action in Congress and the Federal Election Commission to create platform parity for political ad disclosure across TV, radio, print and Internet companies".

Even if the bill passes, it will not be an easy task for massive companies like Google or Facebook to keep track of all of the ads that are purchased on their platforms.

Warner is the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, which is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 race.

For campaigns that spend more than $500 on political ads each year, tech and ad platforms would have to make new data available for public viewing. John McCain signed onto it.

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To prevent a repeat, Klobuchar, along with Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, unveiled the Honest Ads Act, which would require Facebook, Twitter, Google and other technology giants to post information about the source of political ads, just as USA television and radio broadcasters are required to do.

The bill also has the support of Republican Sen.

It remains unclear how exactly the bill will account for the unique challenges of regulating online ads, versus those broadcast over public airwaves.

"We have to secure our election systems and we have to do it now - the next election is only 383 days away". "If a candidate or a cause buys an ad on TV, the same rules should apply if they buy it on Facebook or Google or on Twitter".

The company turned over the ads to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian influence in the 2016 election, and any possible coordination or collusion with campaigns. The group also established a group called "Black Fist", which encouraged African Americans to take self-defense training; its website contains slogans such as, "Be ready to protect your rights" and "Let them know that Black Power Matters". "That's not the way I operate", he said.

Representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google are scheduled to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on November 1 in an open hearing. So far, Facebook, Google and Twitter have all confirmed that they unknowingly sold ads to Russian groups.

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