US senators call for tighter regulation of online political advertisements

US senators call for tighter regulation of online political advertisements

US politicians are poised to introduce a new bill mandating that greater transparency be given to the authorship of online political advertisements in the wake of a scandal surrounding Facebook's sale of political ads to Russian backed groups during last year's presidential election campaign.

Democratic senators Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner are spearheading pressure for a change in the rules by writing to colleagues inviting them to co-sponsor a new bill that would require all digital platforms with 1m or more users to maintain a public ledger of all groups and individuals who purchase more than $10k worth of ads.

In a letter to colleagues the pair wrote: “The file would contain a digital copy of the advertisement… a description of the audience the advertisement targets, the number of views generated, the dates and times of publication, the rates charged, and the contract information of the purchaser,” the letter stated.

“Additionally, this legislation would require digital platforms, in addition to broadcast, cable and satellite providers, to make reasonable efforts to ensure that electioneering communications are not purchased by a foreign national, directly or indirectly.”

These political machinations come shortly after Facebook chief exectutive Mark Zuckerberg stole much of their thunder by pre-emptively announcing that he would share 3,000 ads that it believes were bought by Russian-linked individuals and organisations with the House and Senate.

In a transparency pledge Zuckerberg went on to vow to undertake a number of additional measures including enabling people to link back to the advertiser’s page and view all current campaigns in one place.

Political momentum is building in the US over a perceived failure on the part of Federal Election Commission to address the growth of online political advertisements on platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter.

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