McCain, Democrats to introduce first major legislation targeting Facebook ads since Russia intervened in the 2016 elections

  • Senators introduced a bipartisan bill cracking down on foreign attempts to interfere in US elections online.
  • Companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter could be affected.
  • The goal is to curb Russian meddling and prevent future manipulation and fake news on social media platforms.

A bipartisan group of senators plans to introduce legislation that would make it harder for outside agitators to meddle in future US elections.

It’s the first major step Congress has taken to regulate manipulative content on social media platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter since Russia tried to influence last year’s presidential election.

Democratic Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota will join Republican Sen. John McCain on Capitol Hill Thursday afternoon to officially announce the bill.

“Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election by buying and placing political ads on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google,” Warner and Klobuchar said in a statement on Wednesday. “The content and purchaser(s) of those online advertisements are a mystery to the public because of outdated laws that have failed to keep up with evolving technology.”

The Honest Ads Act would make political ad buying more transparent and ensure that political ads online are covered by the same rules as ads on TV and radio.

Last month, Facebook said that fake accounts “likely operated out of Russia” purchased thousands of ads during the US presidential election designed to amplify divisive political messages.

After the revelations, and under intense pressure from Congress and the public to do more about manipulative ads online, Facebook agreed to turn over more than 3,000 Russian-linked ads to congressional committees in order to aid in the wider investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

Axios reported a preview of the bill, which would amend the definition of electioneering communication in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 to include internet and digital advertisements.

Currently, Congress only regulates TV, radio, cable, and satellite political communications. The new bill would also require digital platforms to keep more detailed records of electioneering communications above certain thresholds.

Companies would have to archive digital copies of the ads and include specific information about the purchasers, their target audiences, views generated, and rates.

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