Bipartisan Bill Aimed At Foreign Election Influence On Social Media Unveiled

Joshua Bennett
October 20, 2017

Mark Warner of Virginia and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota would require social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to keep public files of election ads and meet the same disclaimer requirements as political broadcast and print advertising. They also don't know if you're a Russian propagandist disrupting the USA presidential election with hateful advertising.

R-N.C.; and Senate Intelligence Vice Chair Mark Warner, D-Va., hold a news conference on the status of the committee's inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, October 4, 2017. The effort comes as Congress continues to investigate highly-targeted foreign propaganda during the 2016 campaign, which reached, by some estimates, tens of millions of Americans via Facebook alone.

And within Congress, the bill might struggle to advance.

Klobuchar said that "we all know that Russian threats to our national security don't always involve traditional weapons of war". Facebook had argued that the ads on its platform were too small to fit the disclosure text.

Last month, after USA regulators and criminal investigators began looking at the Russia-linked ads, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said his company would take several voluntary steps to make political ads more transparent, such as allowing anyone to seem them no matter whom they target.

The Senate and House intelligence committees are two of the main congressional panels probing allegations that Russian Federation sought to interfere in the USA election to boost Republican President Donald Trump's chances of winning, and possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian Federation. A Google spokeswoman said on Thursday there was no update from the company.

McCain, for his part, says he won't be lobbying fellow Republicans to join him in supporting the bill. "What I understood they were trying to get at is already illegal: foreign money in U.S. elections".

Facebook said in a statement from its USA public policy vice president, Erin Egan, that it stood "with lawmakers in their effort to achieve transparency in political advertising" and that it looked "forward to continuing the conversation with lawmakers as we work toward a legislative solution".

Officials from Facebook, Twitter and Google are testifying publicly before both the House and Senate intelligence panels on November 1.

"We stand with lawmakers in their effort to achieve transparency in political advertising", Erin Egan, Facebook's vice president for United States public policy, said in a statement. "The Honest Ads Act would help 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". "We have already announced the steps Facebook will take on our own and we look forward to continuing the conversation with lawmakers as we work toward a legislative solution". The Federal Election Commission regulates campaign finance laws.

Dubbed the Honest Ads Act, the proposed legislation aims to make online platforms disclose paid political ads. The ads appear to have come from a Russian entity known as the Internet Research Agency, according to Facebook.

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