Facebook fought for exception to political ad disclosure laws in 2011

Years before Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s promise last week that his company would soon require political ads to come with a note explaining who paid for them, the social media giant lobbied the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for a waiver from such a requirement.

Facebook asked the FEC in 2011 for a waiver to the law requiring all political ads to include a note about who paid for them, CNN reported Wednesday.

And as Splinter News reported earlier this month, Facebook was represented in the effort by Marc Elias, a lawyer who has been a longtime Democratic operative and the general counsel for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.


Facebook asked for the exemption a year after the FEC granted one to Google. Both companies argued at the time that the limited space they allotted for political ads didn’t leave room for disclaimers.

Earlier this month, Facebook revealed that it had sold $100,000 in political ads to fraudulent accounts suspected of ties to the Kremlin. In response to the uproar that followed and amid criticism that its advertising practices are too opaque, Zuckerberg announced reforms that he said would bring more transparency to political advertisements.

“When someone buys political ads on TV or other media, they’re required by law to disclose who paid for them. But you still don’t know if you’re seeing the same messages as everyone else,” Zuckerberg said during a live stream announcement last week.

“Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser’s page and see the ads they’re currently running to any audience on Facebook,” he added.

In 2011, the FEC split in a 3-3 vote on whether to grant Facebook the waiver to the disclosure laws, effectively allowing the company to go forward with displaying political ads without any disclaimers about who paid for them.

Updated: 6:06 p.m.

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