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

20 October 2017, 12:45 | Conrad Doyle

Suspicious Facebook ads from the 2016 campaign


It's already received support from Republican Senator John McCain. Mark Warner of Virginia and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota would require the same disclosure for online political ads that is now in place on ads that appear on television and the radio.

"In the wake of Russian Federation on the attack in the 2016 election, it is more important than ever to strengthen our defenses against foreign interference in our elections", McCain wrote in a statement that was read by Klobuchar during a Thursday press conference.

Senators introduced a bipartisan bill on Thursday to do just that, prompted by revelations of Russian meddling before and during the 2016 USA presidential election. "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".

Sen. John McCain co-sponsors The Honest Ads Act, which aims to create more transparency with online and social media ads.

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 US election.

Facebook has turned over 3,000 paid political ads purchased by Russian-linked accounts to the House and Senate intelligence committees that which showed efforts to sow discord in the USA with posts on Black Lives Matter, gun rights and more.

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.

Facebook, Twitter and Google are expected to appear in an open hearing before the House and Senate's intelligence committees on November 1. "The content and purchaser (s) of those online advertisements are a mystery to the public because of outdated laws that have failed to keep up with evolving technology".

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.

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. "Our laws should be as sophisticated as those who are trying to manipulate us or to break the law". 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. But, he said, "a number of people are wanting to wait until the platform companies come in and have their day of testimony".

Facebook has turned the alleged Russian ads over to Congress, and last week, the company's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said she "absolutely" supports the public release of the advertisements.

"I have a hard time understanding how you do legislation on social media platforms before you have them in for a hearing", Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a Republican, told CNN on Thursday.

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