Federal regulators weigh whether to unmask online political ad buyers

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Political advertisements on Facebook would have to include disclaimers showing who paid for them, under legal opinions the nation’s federal election regulators are taking up Thursday. If the Federal Election Commission (FEC) votes to adopt the requirement at its Dec 14 meeting, it would mark the first federal move to formally regulate political advertising on social media following revelations that Kremlin-tied groups used ads on Facebook and other platforms in an effort to sway the 2016 presidential election. Facebook has promised voluntary measures to make political advertising on its platform more transparent. A pair of bills in Congress would go further, requiring social-media companies to make copies of political ads available for public review and would extend a slew of campaign-finance laws that currently apply to television and radio ads to the digital world. It also requires all advertising platforms — whether broadcast or digital — to "make reasonable efforts" to ensure foreign interests aren't paying for political ads. Facebook hasn't endorsed the bills on Capitol Hill, but Facebook’s top lawyer Colin Stretch has said the company is open to the FEC's limited regulations, in part, to ensure that Facebook’s voluntary moves to reveal more about its advertisers doesn’t push potential customers “who wish to avoid disclosure to use other, less transparent platforms.”


Federal regulators weigh whether to unmask online political ad buyers