McCain Honest Ads Act looks to regulate Facebook – CNET

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Sen. John McCain co-sponsors The Honest Ads Act.

Sen. John McCain

Some US senators are looking to beef up laws around political ads sold online and on social media sites, given possible Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

It’s largely believed the election was swayed by bogus political ads on Facebook, Twitter and Google. Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) is teaming with Democratic Sens. Mark Warner (Va.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) don’t want that happening again. Their draft bill, The Honest Ads Act, is co-sponsored by Republican Senator John of Arizona.

According to a preview of the act seen by Axios, it would amend the current Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 to include paid internet and digital advertisements as electioneering communication. 

“In 2016 Russians bought online political ads designed to influence our election and divide Americans,” reads a press release by Kobuchar and Warner. “The content and purchaser(s) of those online advertisements are a mystery to the public because of outdated laws that have failed to keep up with evolving technology.”

The idea of The Honest Ads Act is to create rules for online political ads that are the same as those that cover ads sold on TV, radio and satellite. That means certain disclosures would be required, such as who paid for the ads.

It would require online platforms, such as Facebook, “to make reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate.” 

Facebook, Google and Twitter all acknowledge more could’ve been done to prevent the placement of such ads on their sites. Facebook has said more than $100,000 worth of ads were bought by what now appear to be Russian agents, while Twitter said it’s discovered 201 accounts that may be tied to those same agents. Google reportedly found that Russians paid for tens of thousands of dollars on ads on YouTube, Gmail and Google search.

Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said last week that the company intends to fully cooperate with Congress, as well as release information on how the ads were targeted to specific audiences.

“Things happened on our platform in this election that should not have happened,” Sandberg said. “We know we have a responsibility to do anything we can to prevent that.”

Facebook, meanwhile, expressed support.

“We stand with lawmakers in their effort to achieve transparency in political advertising. We have already announced the steps Facebook will take on our own and we look forward to continuing the conversation with lawmakers as we work toward a legislative solution,” said Erin Egan, Facebook VP for US Public Policy in a statement to CNET. 

A Twitter spokeswoman said “we look forward to engaging with Congress and the FEC on these issues.”

Sen. McCain did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Google didn’t respond to comment. 

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