It’s time for disclaimers on electioneering digital ads.

November 6, 2017 by

For years digital media has been exempt from the FEC laws that require TV, cable and radio to include “paid for by” disclaimers on all political non-candidate sponsored advertising. And, for non-candidate sponsored ad campaigns to run any ads on TV, cable or radio, they must provide full documentation backing up their claims — which the media outlets usually spend quite a bit of time reviewing before approving or denying access. The 2016 election showed just how far digitals influence has progressed, and it is now time to require the same “accountability” disclosures as other media outlets.

The recent news about just how much internet,  social media usage and advertising that was accomplished by the Russians is astounding. These are not small numbers. According to Wired, Facebook alone had over over 470 separate Russian linked ad campaigns, that with likes and shares included, reached over 126 million Americans. That’s almost 1/2 of all U.S. voters. While not all where highly targeted, about 25% were geo-targeted to certain states. On Twitter, per CNN, there were over 36,000 accounts associated with Russia, which generated 1.4 million tweets making over 288 million impressions. Google also had Russian ad campaigns, and per Zdnet, has so far found over 1,000 Russian sponsored YouTube videos, a full 43 hours of content, which ensnared over 300,000 views within the U.S. It’s hard to say how much influence these campaigns really had on the final outcome.

The majority of these postings and ad campaigns were divisive in nature, dealing with LGBT, racial, immigration and gun rights issues. Any of these issues on TV, cable or radio would have required serious outlet vetting before being seen by the public. All would have not see the light of day without carrying a sponsoring group disclaimer. Digital advertising, regardless of campaign size,  should be held to the same exacting standards of accountability. It’s time.

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