Last week in a letter Sen. Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar urged their constituents to support a bill that will regulate campaign ads running on social networks like Facebook. A draft of the bill may hit Congress as early as Tuesday, according to Gizmodo.
Gizmodo reports the bill was originally proposed to track “electioneering communication” purchased by anyone spending at least $10,000 on online advertisements. Now, that amount is no longer seen as an effective threshold. The decision to get rid of the $10,000 minimum came to the realization that none of the ad paid for by foreigners during the 2016 election cycle would have been covered by the new piece of legislation. It is not known what the new threshold will be.
This news comes after Facebook revealed last week that at least $150,000 worth of political ads purchased had been bought during the 2016 campaign by accounts with Russian ties. About $100,000 was spent by 470 accounts linked to a Russian St. Petersburg. Then an another 2,000 advertisements, or $50,000 worth of ads, were purchased by Russian language accounts using internet addresses in the United States. The House and Senate intelligence committees are preparing to review the ads over the next week.
The Washington Post reports Facebook ads paid for by Russians as part of a cover influence campaign appear aimed at creating divisions among American voters by exploiting racial and religious topics. Some of the ads, for instance, “highlighted support for Democrat Hillary Clinton among Muslim women.”
Facebook had argued in 2011 against regulations requiring political advisors to disclose who paid for online ads. Citing a Federal Federal Election Commission rule addressing the impracticality of attaching disclosers to such items such as bumper stickers, Facebook that many of its ads were “too small” to contain meaningful disclosure.
Last September, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company intended to overhaul how it manages election ads, including by placing requirements on political advertisers to disclosure which audiences they target with wich ads. This is, of course, a part of the company’s changing belief on their influence on elections. After the election, Zuckerberg laughed at the notion that propaganda on the platform had any impact on the election.
Warner and Klobuchar’s bill may have very little of a chance of becoming law as the Republicans have shown little interest in investigating the propaganda that led to the 2016 victory. Without meaningful action by the government, the responsibility of policing propaganda will fall in the laps of Facebook, which should give people some hesitation.