McCain joins Dems on bill to regulate social media ads

Posted October 20, 2017

USA legislation that would impose new disclosure requirements on political ads that run on Facebook and other websites received support on Wednesday from Senator John McCain, giving a bipartisan boost to a bill already popular among Democrats.

Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) is teaming with Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner to require disclosure of who's paying for online political ads, announcing he'll co-sponsor the bill. Not all lawmakers share Warner's interest in Russia's activities on social media, and Republicans generally have dismissed federal probes into the Kremlin's activities during the 2016 presidential election.

"I've been fighting for free and open and full disclosure for the past 25 years", McCain said Wednesday. The proposal by Klobuchar and Warner is meant to bring social media ads up to the broadcast standard. Non-Americans are generally not allowed to spend money to influence USA elections.

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. Facebook has since turned over more than 3,000 Russian-linked ads to congressional committees investigating Russian interference. Representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google are scheduled to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on November 1 in an open hearing. Following Facebook's disclosure of the ads, Twitter found some accounts that were linked to them, plus others that weren't linked. Sandberg said the network wants to create a "new standard" for transparency.

Penalties for noncompliance would be similar to those in the Federal Election Campaign Act, which regulates the financing of political campaigns in the U.S., and would include fines and other liability for the individuals and online platforms involved.

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Facebook lobbied for years to prevent disclosure requirements for online media. Campaigns spending more than $500 on ads will have to make them available for public viewing along with disclosures about who paid for the ad, who the ad was targeted at, and the cost.

Social media would have to follow the same rules as television and radio stations.

Disclose contact information for the ads' purchaser, and how much they paid for the ad.

Facebook said at least $100,000 in ads were paid for in rubles to accounts traced to Russian Federation. "In light of what we've seen it's time to take a step back". John McCain signed onto it. But that hasn't happened yet. "What I understood they were trying to get at is already illegal: foreign money in U.S. elections". The House Intelligence Committee has said it plans on publicly releasing the ads. But, he said, "a number of people are wanting to wait until the platform companies come in and have their day of testimony". "We have to muster a self-defense, just as we would a military or a cyberattack".

Heinrich's legislation is expected to propose funding and guidelines to protect voting systems and databases from cyberattacks.

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The Republican chairman of the Senate Committee investigating the matter, Sen.

"We've got to get it ready for 2018, so it is the right timing", Lankford said. 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.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, said testimony has shown that shell companies were "the lubricant for the election interference effort". A companion bill, sponsored by Reps.

"Shell corporations help criminals hide the proceeds of their crimes, they help kleptocrats protect what they loot from their countries, but they also help facilitate Putin election interference", Whitehouse said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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