Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Draft FEC Rules Target Political Ads on Social Media

  • Democratic FEC member says commission reviewing draft rules
  • Facebook will archive political ads for four years: Harbath

The U.S. Federal Elections Commission is moving forward with a plan to introduce new rules on political advertising on social media ahead of the 2018 election cycle. 

The commission has a working draft of the rules in front of it now, longtime Democratic FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said Monday at a technology conference in Washington, though she divulged few details.

“I’m hoping that we are going to be able move this rule-making forward within this election cycle,” Weintraub, one of five members of the bipartisan FEC commission, said. A sixth spot on the commission remains vacant.

The FEC agreed in late 2017 to come up with new rules after congressional committees hammered social media companies about how their platforms were used by Russian state agents to increase discord during the 2016 presidential election. Most lawmakers want rules that apply the same disclosure requirements that TV and radio ads have to the internet.

The FEC’s draft rules focus narrowly on ads that directly advocate for a particular candidate, rather than the broader threshold some lawmakers have proposed that would require disclosure for ads about any issue of “national legislative importance.”

Facebook Policy

Separately, Katie Harbath, Facebook Inc.’s global politics and government outreach director, said at the conference that the company will start archiving advertisements from political groups that have to file with the FEC or the Internal Revenue Service for four years. Through the new initiative, users will be able to see how much money is being spent on ads and the demographics of who saw the ads, including age, location and gender, Harbath said. 

Harbath said Facebook is still working out how they will display how much money is spent on political advertising.

“Do we do it by ad? Do we do it by campaign? Do we do it by day?” she said. “There is a lot of different options there that we are trying to work through to help provide more of this transparency and authentication of people who are buying political ads on our platform.”

Harbath said Facebook is also looking at verifying that people who are buying ads on behalf of a particular political group or candidate are authorized to put out that advertising.

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