Both parties back Facebook’s request for waiver on campaign ads

“Forcing Facebook, or any social networking site, to change its basic interface to provide political advertising with a disclaimer will have the result of decreasing political communication in a forum that has increasingly played a key role in voter participation in elections,” RNC Chief Counsel John Phillippe Jr. wrote in a letter to the FEC. 

“The Commission should encourage increased voter participation by finding that Facebook ads qualify for the small items and impracticable exceptions, and therefore, do not require a disclaimer,” Phillippe wrote.

In a separate letter, counsel Brian Svoboda backed Facebook’s request on behalf of the Democratic campaign committees.

“To preserve a vibrant disclaimer statute, and to keep candidates and parties on a level playing field with outside groups, the Commission should use the safety valves that already exist in the disclaimer rules … to permit Facebook ads without disclaimers,” Svoboda wrote.

FEC staff responded that Facebook’s restrictions on the size of ads are self-imposed and not grounds for an exemption. The FEC discussed the issue at Wednesday’s meeting, and agreed additional disclosures are unnecessary, keeping the status quo in place.

“We’re pleased that the FEC commissioners have agreed that people can continue to buy and run political ads on Facebook as they have been,” said a Facebook spokesman Wednesday in an email. “We look forward to continued conversations with the FEC about these important issues.”

Facebook will continue to sell ads to candidates and campaigns, with the disclosure on the landing page similar to other online ad networks. Candidates such as President Obama have already begun running
campaign ads on the ubiquitous social network.

Google received an exemption from the rule for its search ads last
October, provided the ads link to a page containing a full disclosure.

—Updated at 11:41 a.m.

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