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Congress seeks transparent online political spending with Honest Ads Act

20 October 2017

US legislation that would impose new disclosure requirements on political ads that run on Facebook and other websites received support on Wednesday from Senator John McCain, giving a bipartisan boost to a bill already popular among Democrats. Late last month, after Warner first floated the bill, Burr said it was too soon to discuss legislation and that the hearing will "explore for the first time any holes that might exist in social media platform regulation or campaign law". "We recently learned that $100,000 was spent in [Russian] rubles on Facebook political ads during the 2016 election".

Several members of the US senate, including Senator John McCain, are pushing for a new bill that would force online advertisers like Google Inc. and Facebook be more transparent about who exactly is purchasing their ads. The bill would also place a "reasonable expectation" on social media companies to identify if the source of an ad buy is outside the U.S. The bipartisan bill will, should it pass, require all digital platforms to federally disclose who buys political ads on each platform's website or app, the goal being to avoid further foreign meddling in U.S. elections and fueling the flames around issues like racial tensions.

Facebook has turned over 3,000 paid political ads purchased by Russian-linked accounts to the House and Senate intelligence committees that which showed efforts to sow discord in the USA with posts on Black Lives Matter, gun rights and more. In recent days, they've also enlisted critical Republican support from Sen.

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As the top Democrat on the Senate Intel Committee, Warner has had a front row seat to the revelations around Russian interference in the 2016 US election. John McCain of Arizona, who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Klobuchar said that "we all know that Russian threats to our national security don't always involve traditional weapons of war". In that vain, federal lawmakers also seek to ensure that political ads on Facebook, Google and Twitter must have clear and conspicuous disclaimers saying who purchased them. That information would be available for the public to see.

The company turned over the ads to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian influence in the 2016 election, and any possible coordination or collusion with campaigns.

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"Russia attacked our elections" and will keep doing it if Congress doesn't act, Klobuchar said at a press conference announcing the legislation Thursday afternoon. Mark Warner of Virginia and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. "But I think Americans deserve to know if the ads they are seeing are generated by Americans or generated by foreign interests".

Representatives of Google, Facebook, and Twitter are expected to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee next month.

Warner said that there have been discussions with other lawmakers to co-sponsor the bill, and other members of the Intel Committee are waiting for the November hearing to hear what tech companies have to say about the proposal. So far, Facebook, Google and Twitter have all confirmed that they unknowingly sold ads to Russian groups.

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Congress seeks transparent online political spending with Honest Ads Act