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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 KlobucharHillicon Valley: Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC | Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cyber during summit with Putin | TSA working on additional security regulations following Colonial Pipeline hack Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC Senate confirms Lina Khan to the FTC MORE (D-Minn.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC | Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cyber during summit with Putin | TSA working on additional security regulations following Colonial Pipeline hack Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cybersecurity during summit with Putin How Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress MORE (D-Va.), and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamProgressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC Senate confirms Garland's successor to appeals court Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema 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 KilmerThe tale of the last bipartisan unicorns Head of House Office of Diversity and Inclusion urges more staff diversity House lawmakers roll out bill to invest 0 million in state and local cybersecurity MORE (D-Wash.) and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikHouse fails to pass bill to promote credit fairness for LGTBQ-owned businesses GOP's Stefanik defends Trump DOJ secret subpoenas McCarthy pushes back on Biden criticism of GOP at NATO 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 McCainMeghan McCain: Harris 'sounded like a moron' discussing immigration Arizona AG Mark Brnovich launches Senate challenge to Mark Kelly Arizona Democrats launch voter outreach effort ahead of key Senate race 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.”