Bipartisan group of senators seeks to increase transparency of online political ads

Bipartisan group of senators seeks to increase transparency of online political ads
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A bipartisan group of three senators reintroduced legislation on Wednesday aimed at increasing the transparency of election advertisements on social media platforms, with the goal of preventing foreign actors from influencing U.S. elections.

Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Lobbying world MORE (D-Minn.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election US intelligence says Russia seeking to 'denigrate' Biden GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe MORE (D-Va.), and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus New polls show tight races for Graham, McConnell Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing MORE (R-S.C.) introduced the Honest Ads Act, which would require online platforms to make “all reasonable efforts” to ensure that foreign entities are not buying political ads.

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It would also require all digital platforms with at least 50 million monthly viewers to maintain a public file of all election-related communication purchased by an entity or group that spends over $500 on their platform.

The public file would need to include the contact information of the purchaser, a description of the targeted audience, the rates charged and the dates and times of publication of the ads.

The bill would also expand the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act’s definition of “electioneering communication” to include paid internet and digital advertisements.

Companion legislation in the House is being sponsored by Reps. Derek KilmerDerek Christian KilmerOur national forests need protection — and Congress can help Democrats debate how and when to get House back in action Cornell to launch new bipartisan publication led by former Rep. Steve Israel MORE (D-Wash.) and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikHouse Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections The 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden, Obama reunite for socially distanced conversation MORE (R-N.Y.), along with 26 other Democratic and Republican sponsors. 

According to the Senate co-sponsors, the Honest Ads Act is supported by Twitter and Facebook, and by groups including the Campaign Legal Center, the Alliance for Securing Democracy, the Brennan Center for Justice and the Sunlight Foundation. 

“Foreign adversaries interfered in the 2016 election and are continuing to use information warfare to try to influence our government and divide Americans,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “We must act now to protect our democracy and prevent this kind of interference from ever happening again. The goal of the Honest Ads Act is simple: to ensure that voters know who is paying to influence our political system.”

Warner said that the bill was necessary as “we grow increasingly dependent on a handful of very large platforms,” and as Russia and other foreign adversaries seek to interfere in U.S. elections. 

“Right now, our country needs strong defenses that help ward off shady online attacks by demanding increased transparency, which is why I’m proud to introduce the Honest Ads Act,” Warner said in a statement.

“By requiring large digital platforms to meet the same disclosure standards as broadcast, cable, and satellite ads, this legislation can help prevent foreign actors from manipulating the American public and interfering in our free and fair elections through the use of inauthentic and divisive paid ads,” he added. 

The bill was sponsored by the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Mark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Prominent conservatives question Jerry Falwell Jr. vacation photo MORE (R-Ariz.) during the last Congress.

Graham said in a statement that “hardening our electoral infrastructure will require a comprehensive approach and it can’t be done with a single piece of legislation,” adding that “I am cosponsoring this legislation because it’s clear we have to start somewhere.” 

“Online platforms have made some progress but there is more to be done. Foreign interference in U.S. elections – whether Russia in the 2016 presidential election or another rogue actor in the future – poses a direct threat to our democracy,” Graham said. “I intend to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to bolster our defenses and defend the integrity of our electoral system.” 

Klobuchar “commended” Graham for “taking up the mantle of bipartisanship” from McCain in sponsoring the Honest Ads Act, noting that “protecting our elections isn’t about politics—it’s about national security and the future of our democracy.”