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In Light of Federal Election Commission Hearing, Klobuchar, Warner Urge Commissioners to Issue Strongest Possible Transparency Requirements for Online Ads
June 27, 2018
Today and tomorrow, the Federal Election Commission will hold public hearings on the proposed rulemaking for online advertisements 
Klobuchar, Warner, and Senator John McCain are the authors of the Honest Ads Act, legislation to improve transparency for online ads

WASHINTON- U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee, and Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, urged the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to implement the strongest possible transparency and accountability requirements for online advertisements in response to the proposed rulemaking. The letter comes as the FEC begins public hearings today on online advertisements.

“During the 2016 election cycle, Russians took advantage of weak online disclaimer and disclosure rules to purchase online political advertisements. As we rapidly approach the 2018 election, intelligence officials have warned that Russia is currently working to disrupt our elections again,” the senators wrote.

“People have a right to know who is behind the information they receive, and in particular who is trying to influence their vote. This necessitates new disclaimer and disclosure requirements for all online advertisements. Primary elections are already upon us and the general election is only 131 days away. Therefore, we encourage you to quickly adopt the strongest possible rule to increase transparency and accountability for online advertisements.”

Klobuchar, Warner and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) are the authors of the bipartisan Honest Ads Act, legislation to help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. The Honest Ads Act would 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.

The full text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Commissioners:

As you conduct hearings this week on “Internet Disclaimers and Definition of Public Communication”, we encourage you to issue the strongest possible rule that will increase transparency and accountability for online advertisements.

During the 2016 election cycle, Russians took advantage of weak online disclaimer and disclosure rules to purchase online political advertisements. As part of a wide social media exploitation effort, Russia spent at least $100,000 dollars—in rubles—on Facebook ads to influence the 2016 election. According to Facebook responses to investigations by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Senate Judiciary Committee, Russian disinformation reached more than 126 million Americans online.

As we rapidly approach the 2018 election, intelligence officials have warned that Russia is currently working to disrupt our elections again. As Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats stated earlier this year, “[t]he 2018 U.S. midterm elections are a potential target for Russian influence operations” and Russia will conduct “bolder and more disruptive cyber operations.”   Senate Intelligence Committee members determined that foreign actors illegally influenced the 2016 presidential election and that something has to be done to stop this from occurring in the future.

Online platforms dwarf broadcast, satellite, and cable providers. The largest internet platform has over 210 million American users. The largest cable provider only has 22 million subscribers – nearly an order of magnitude greater. That is why we introduced the Honest Ads Act earlier this year. Our legislation would apply the same rules to online political advertisements that already exist for traditional media and require digital advertisers to maintain a public record of political ads purchased. By requiring the same rules across all advertising platforms, we can limit foreign attempts to influence our elections, increase transparency in political advertising, and promote greater accountability.

People have a right to know who is behind the information they receive, and in particular who is trying to influence their vote. This necessitates new disclaimer and disclosure requirements for all online advertisements. Primary elections are already upon us and the general election is only 131 days away. Therefore, we encourage you to quickly adopt the strongest possible rule to increase transparency and accountability for online advertisements.
Sincerely,
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