If you turned on a TV for even five minutes during the last election, you likely saw a political ad. In probably began with “I’m ____, and I approve this message,” and at the end had several lines of fine print explaining who paid for the ad.
The Federal Election Commission requires that every TV ad, radio spot, mailer, and print ad seeking to sway your vote on a candidate or issue disclose who is paying for it. But did you know that online ads are not subject to the same disclosure rules as TV, radio, and print ads?
That’s a loophole large enough to drive a truck through, and outrageous in the digital era.
Tell the FEC: Americans have a right to know who is trying to sway their vote. Update your disclosure requirements to include online ads.
Since 2010, 65% of people under 30 cite the internet as their major source for news.1 In every age group, the number of people getting their news and information from TV and other sources is dropping, and more and more Americans are relying on the internet as their primary means of getting information.2
Yet the Federal Election Commission requirements remain stuck not just in the 20th century, but in the 19th century, with references to telegrams and typewriters – but no requirements for online ads to disclose who is paying for them. When it comes to political campaigning, the internet is the Wild West again.
Tell the FEC: Close the online ad loophole. ALL campaign ads should disclose their funders.
Online ad disclosure will ensure that super PACs and wealthy donors cannot sneak around transparency rules. And very importantly, it will ensure that foreign actors can't meddle in our elections.
There is strong evidence that Russian operatives bought Facebook ads seeking to sway the US election. As many as 126 million Americans may have been served content from Russia-linked pages, with no clue they were being influenced by foreign agents. And that is just organic content, not even including paid ads.3
Updating FEC disclosure requirements to cover internet ads will help protect against something like this ever happening again.
Add your name. Tell the FEC to make online ads disclose who is paying for them.
1. Mashable, “Internet surpasses television as main news source for young adults,” January 4, 2011.
2. Pew Research Center, “Internet closes in on TV as a source of news in U.S.,” September 7, 2017.
3. CNN Money, “Facebook estimates 126 million people were served content from Russia-linked pages,” October 30, 2017.