Political Advertisers Still Breaking Online Disclosure Rules

Posted by Dale Eisman on February 13, 2018


Months after federal election officials warned social media companies that political advertising on their platforms must identify its sponsors, Facebook – the industry leader – continues to run ads that do not provide full disclosure, the online news site ProPublica reports today.

Among more than 300 Facebook political ads it has reviewed since the Federal Election Commission (FEC) clarified the disclosure requirements in December, only 40 “appeared to satisfy” the rules, ProPublica said.

Advertisers failing to meet the disclosure standards include President Trump’s re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

The FEC said in December that political advertising on social media platforms is subject to the same disclosure requirements that apply to broadcast ads. Those commercials generally include a disclaimer, sometimes delivered by the candidate, identifying the ad’s sponsor.

Under the rules, it’s up to the advertiser – not the social media platform – to make the required disclosure.

“Insufficient disclaimers can be minor technicalities, not necessarily evidence of intent to deceive,” ProPublica said. “But the pervasiveness of the lapses ProPublica found suggests a larger problem that may raise concerns about the upcoming midterm elections — that political advertising on the world’s largest social network isn’t playing by rules intended to protect the public.”

The social media companies have resisted suggestions that their political ads should be more closely regulated, even as the FEC  contemplates additional rules. Meanwhile, three senators have introduced the Honest Ads Act, which would write disclosure regulations into federal law and require each digital platform to main a database – accessible online – of  political ads and advertisers.

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Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Money in Politics

Tags: Disclosure

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