Following a year of criticism over transparency on internet platforms, the Federal Election Commission today proposed stricter regulations on how the agency handles disclaimers for political ads online.
The FEC has spent years debating how closely to regulate such ads, but internet platforms like Facebook and Google have escaped some of the disclosure requirements that other communications mediums face, partially thanks to arguments from those online platforms themselves. That difference in oversight gained new relevance as the United States grappled with Russian disinformation campaigns, and as Facebook moved to voluntarily make some changes to its ad policies. A bill proposed in Congress that would overhaul online ad disclaimers, meanwhile, has gone nowhere.
Describing the proposals as narrow, the FEC today released two possible plans to overhaul online ad disclaimers, which would apply to ads advocating for a candidate, asking for contributions, or that are made by a political committee. The first would essentially require online ads to abide by the same disclosure rules as their print and TV counterparts when noting the source of an ad. The second would require the ads to contain similarly conspicuous disclosures about their origins, but not in the exact same format as other mediums. Under the proposals, companies could still make “adaptations” to fit technical constraints online.
A 60-day comment period is now open before the FEC votes on a finalized proposal. Those new rules may not be in effect, however, until after the 2018 midterm elections.