Wyden calls for end to political ad targeting on Facebook, Google

Wyden calls for end to political ad targeting on Facebook, Google
© Aaron Schwartz

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenKey Senate Democrat unveils proposal to tax the rich Overnight Health Care: Trump seeks ban on flavored e-cigarettes | Purdue Pharma nears settlement with states, cities over alleged role in opioid epidemic | Senate panel cancels vote on key spending bill amid standoff Pelosi woos progressives on prescription drug pricing plan MORE (D-Ore.) on Wednesday called on Google and Facebook to bar “micro-targeting” in political advertising.

The senator’s comments come as the 2020 presidential campaign heats up and candidates increasingly spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a week on ads through the tech giants.

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The Oregon senator, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called on the companies to prohibit campaigns from uploading lists of specific voters while making an appearance on CNN.

"I think it's time for Facebook and Google to voluntarily suspend micro-targeting of political and issue ads," Wyden told the network, saying that he would prefer it to be an internal company initiative rather than required by law.

He added that he was particularly concerned about the use of such “micro-targeting” based on voter details to potentially depress minority turnout. While Google and Facebook have said such campaigns targeting voters based on race and ethnicity are against their rules and that they have implemented new rules since 2016, Wyden has said they were insufficient.

"With or without foreign interference, our democracy is moving in a dangerous path where billionaires on both sides are investing in huge data operations, in manipulating individuals across the country through online ads," former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos, who is now director of the Stanford Internet Observatory, told CNN.

Stamos added that while Google and Facebook take precautions to verify ad buyers are based in the U.S., other companies that have taken no such steps could fill the void.

"Russians could run a pretty robust campaign just by avoiding Google and Facebook and just using the other services out there," he told CNN.

A representative for Google referred The Hill to the company's policies on political advertising.