Sites open to over­sight of po­lit­i­cal ads

Star Tribune - - NATION & WORLD -

Face­book and Google told fed­eral elec­tion of­fi­cials they are open to greater over­sight of the lu­cra­tive busi­ness of on­line po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­tis­ing, a shift for the tech giants who ac­knowl­edged that their ad plat­forms were ex­ploited by Rus­sian op­er­a­tives dur­ing and af­ter the 2016 elec­tion.

Google even took it a step fur­ther than its ri­vals, telling reg­u­la­tors that they should cre­ate a broad rule that would ban for­eign en­ti­ties from buy­ing any kind of po­lit­i­cal ad aimed at in­flu­enc­ing vot­ers, not just the ones that men­tion can­di­dates. Rus­sian op­er­a­tives gen­er­ated and pub­lished “is­sue” ads on Face­book far more fre­quently than those that ex­plic­itly pro­moted can­di­dates. Many of the is­sue ads sought to di­vide Amer­i­can so­ci­ety over po­lit­i­cally charged top­ics such as im­mi­gra­tion, Black Lives Mat­ter and gun rights.

Face­book did not of­fer a po­si­tion on is­sue-based ads to elec­tion of­fi­cials, de­spite its ad­mis­sion that 90 per­cent of the Rus­sian-bought con­tent that ran on its net­work did not men­tion Hil­lary Clin­ton or Don­ald Trump.

The com­ments were submitted to the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion as the agency con­sid­ers new dis­clo­sure re­quire­ments for on­line ad­ver­tise­ments. The dis­cus­sion process at the FEC comes as law­mak­ers are push­ing their own pro­posal to boost the trans­parency of dig­i­tal ads, and as Sil­i­con Val­ley faces height­ened scru­tiny in Wash­ing­ton.

Few com­pa­nies have faced more pres­sure from law­mak­ers than Face­book, which has ac­knowl­edged that a Rus­sian troll farm gen­er­ated about 3,000 ads on its net­work as well as other free posts that col­lec­tively reached 126 mil­lion users.

Twit­ter also ex­pressed open­ness to greater reg­u­la­tion, but asked of­fi­cials to con­sider “the lim­ited and valu­able space avail­able for po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­tise­ments” on its plat­form.

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