Google, Facebook lobby group asks for clearer ad disclosure laws
New York: The Internet Association, a Washington-based group with members that include Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc., is advising lawmakers to clarify the responsibility of advertising platforms ahead of the companies’ testimony to Congress on the extent of Russian influence on their networks.
The lobbying group wrote a series of principles, suggesting that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) should regulate online advertising disclosure with a uniform standard across the country. The document also urges legislation to require all ad platforms — instead of singling out a few — to publicly disclose political advertising information.
The Internet Association, which is consensus-based and speaks for all of its more than 40 members, spent $900,000 on lobbying in the first three quarters of the year, according to federal filings. The release of its principles comes after growing calls from lawmakers to propose new limits on online political ads. Senators introduced a bill that would require digital platforms with as least 50 million monthly viewers to maintain a public file of all election-related ads from people who purchase at least $500 worth of such advertising on their network.
The trade association’s set of principles also urges lawmakers to consider transparency and freedom of speech.
Executives from Google, Facebook and Twitter have been summoned to Washington to give public testimony before congressional committees starting Tuesday. The companies have already announced efforts to be more transparent and self-regulate, seeking to avoid more costly regulation. Facebook said federal political advertisers will have to verify their identities and locations and that their ads will be appended with a “paid for by” disclosure. Twitter unveiled similar disclosure plans for political ads and said it would ban media companies Russia Today and Sputnik from advertising on its site.
Under current Federal Election Commission rules, paid political ads on third-party websites must include the name of the ad buyer. Google and Facebook both asked the FEC for waivers from those requirements for advertisers using their platforms. The FEC approved Google’s request in 2010, provided that the ads included a link to the sponsor’s site. The FEC deadlocked on Facebook’s request in 2011. The matter was recently reopened by the FEC.
The Internet Association also suggests protecting the privacy of individuals who purchase advertising. Under current law, individuals who spend as little as $1,000 to influence an election have to make disclosures to the FEC, while campaigns have to disclose the identities of donors who contribute more than $200. The trade group doesn’t suggest whether privacy concerns should extend to all individuals who purchase internet ads, or just those whose spending falls below a threshold. Bloomberg
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