Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.) will introduce a bipartisan bill Thursday meant to force digital companies to be more transparent about their advertising sales.
The bill also has the support of Republican Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. They said at a news conference Thursday that the legislation would update United States laws so that online political ads had the same protections against foreign interference as traditional ads.
In the past, technology companies have resisted attempts to force them into disclosing information about paid advertisers, although some have said they would cooperate with congressional committees investigating Russian interference in the election.
Warner and Klobuchar said they were not certain about the bill's prospects in Congress but that they hoped to get something passed by early next year or to have the provisions attached to another piece of legislation.
She said the legislation would require online platforms with more than 50 million average monthly users to "maintain a public file so people know what is in these ads".
Although Facebook, Twitter and Google didn't seem to take the Russian Federation issue all that seriously a year ago following the election, they've changed their tune. "We recently learned that $100,000 was spent in [Russian] rubles on Facebook political ads during the 2016 election".
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"Unfortunately, U.S. laws regulating transparency in political campaigns have not kept pace with rapid advances in technology, allowing our adversaries to take advantage of these loopholes to influence millions of American voters with impunity", McCain said in a statement. Warner said Thursday that "it is in their own self interest to work with us", pointing to the consumer trust that those companies depend on, and called the legislation a "light touch approach". John Cornyn, the number-two Republican in the Senate and a member of the Intelligence Committee.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., has said he wants to wait until after an upcoming hearing with social media executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google before weighing in on the legislation.
But it's not yet clear how quickly the bill would move or if it has support among key Republicans.
Facebook said in a statement from its USA public policy vice president, Erin Egan, that it stood "with lawmakers in their effort to achieve transparency in political advertising" and that it looked "forward to continuing the conversation with lawmakers as we work toward a legislative solution".
"We stand with lawmakers in their effort to achieve transparency in political advertising". 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 USA elections and fueling the flames around issues like racial tensions.
The proposed rules mirror some of the disclosure requirements imposed on broadcasters, who must make copies of political ads run on their airwaves available for public viewing. Facebook has since turned over more than 3,000 Russian-linked ads to congressional committees investigating Russian interference.