Senate Dems call for enhanced transparency for online ads

Senate Dems call for enhanced transparency for online ads
© Greg Nash

A pair of Democratic senators is reportedly pushing for legislation to force major digital platforms to publicly disclose the groups and individuals they sell ads to for more than $10,000 amid concern over Facebook ads sold to Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Democratic Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank Comey back in the spotlight after Flynn makes a deal Warner: Every week another shoe drops in Russia investigation MORE (Va.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharFranken resignation could upend Minnesota races Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics MORE (Minn.) called on their colleagues to join them in sponsoring the legislation in a letter reported by CNN on Thursday.

The letter said the bill "would require digital platforms with 1,000,000 or more users to maintain a public file of all electioneering communications purchased by a person or group who spends more than $10,000 aggregate dollars for online political advertisements."

Facebook said it sold thousands of political ads over the past two years to fake accounts based in Russia. The social media company estimated that 470 such accounts — which have since been suspended — spent about $100,000 on close to 3,000 ads.

Thursday's letter was sent out shortly after Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company had decided to turn over to congressional investigators copies of roughly 3,000 advertisements purchased by Russian-linked groups during the 2016 campaign.

Warner, who serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee who has been a top critic of Facebook's handling of the Russian activity on its platform, called the move "important" and an "absolutely necessary first step."

CNN reported on Wednesday that congressional Democrats in a letter asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to create new guidelines for online advertising platforms that would stop foreign spending to influence U.S. elections.