Internet giants urge flexibility in online political ad regulations

Internet giants urge flexibility in online political ad regulations
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Internet giants are pushing back against tougher election advertising regulations, asking the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to allow for some flexibility in how they disclose funding sources for political ads.

In a filing submitted Tuesday, the Internet Association (IA), a trade group representing the biggest web-based technology companies, said that the same disclosure requirements imposed on television and radio ads don’t work well for the internet.

“IA’s recommended approach is to allow for more flexibility given the variety of ways that internet content is consumed and to preserve the ability of the IA’s members to innovate and to allow users of those platforms to innovate,” the filing reads.

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The FEC is currently considering a pair of proposals to regulate online political ad disclosures. The commission has strict requirements for most forms of political advertising, but the rules around social media ads have been vague.

Internet companies have argued against requiring disclaimers on many ads due to space limitations, especially on mobile devices.

In its submission Tuesday, the IA argued in support of proposals to alert users to political ads through icons that would link to separate pages that disclose a political ad’s origins. The group argued that the feature has been a prominent part of the industry’s efforts to improve its own standards amid the heightened scrutiny into online political advertising that followed the 2016 elections.

“Rather than trying to fit a ‘paid for by’ notice on an ad that may change in size when delivered on different platforms or devices, the adaptive disclaimer would be inserted into the ad and be visible and accessible in all formats,” the IA told the FEC.

The IA represents Silicon Valley giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook, among others.

Lawmakers have taken up the issue after it was revealed that a Russian troll farm bought thousands of dollars worth of political advertisements during and following the 2016 presidential campaign in an attempt to sow discord among U.S. voters.