FEC introduces proposal to change digital political ad requirements

FEC introduces proposal to change digital political ad requirements
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The Federal Election Commission (FEC) introduced a draft proposal Wednesday that would amend regulations on online political advertising.

The two new proposals would change rules around internet communication disclaimers and change the agency’s definition of “public communication.”

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“Both proposals are intended to give the American public easy access to information about the persons paying for and candidates authorizing these internet communications, pursuant to the Federal Election Campaign Act,” the draft proposal reads.

Currently, public communication is defined by the FEC as excluding internet communications, except for paid advertising on a website. The agency wants to expand this to reflect how the internet has changed and exists across platforms now across different types of apps on a range of devices like tablets, smartphones, computers and TVs.

The new definition would add advertising on an “internet-enabled device or application” to reflect this.

The FEC also proposes that online advertising meet similar disclosure standards to print, TV and radio political ad disclaimers potentially through “adapted disclaimers,” which show some of the information as to who paid for an ad, but link to full details outside of the ad. Some commissioners at the agency see this as useful for ads that run on platforms like Facebook which are often smaller than traditional print ads.

The rules would add clarity on internet ads that currently don’t exist for all types of media. Facebook, for example, asked for an exemption on including such full disclaimer on its ads in 2011. The commission was split on a decision at the time and regulation in the area has been ambiguous since then.

The public comment period on the draft will be open for 60 days. After that, the FEC will hold a public hearing about the proposal on June 27.

The FEC’s decision follows lawmakers in Congress pushing for ramped up advertising requirements that hold internet companies like Facebook and Google to the same political ad transparency requirements as legacy media platforms.