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Senators Announce New Bill That Would Regulate Online Political Ads (theverge.com) 232

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: As tech companies face continued scrutiny over Russian activity on their ad platforms, Senators today announced legislation meant to regulate political ads on the internet. The new bill, called the Honest Ads Act, would require companies like Facebook and Google to keep copies of political ads and make them publicly available. Under the act, the companies would also be required to release information on who those ads were targeted to, as well as information on the buyer and the rates charged for the ads. The new rules would bring disclosure rules more in line with how political ads are regulated in mediums like print and TV, and apply to any platform with more than 50 million monthly viewers. The companies would be required to keep and release data on anyone spending more than $500 on political ads in a year. It's unclear how well the bill will fare. Companies like Facebook have been successfully fighting regulations for years. But this latest attempt has some bipartisan support: the act, sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) is also co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). "Americans deserve to know who's paying for the online ads," Klobuchar said at a press conference announcing the legislation.
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Senators Announce New Bill That Would Regulate Online Political Ads

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  • First post (Score:5, Funny)

    by wyattstorch516 ( 2624273 ) on Thursday October 19, 2017 @10:33PM (#55401375)

    All this for 100K of Russian ads?

    • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

      It's not just the Russian ads, of course. Facebook has been skirting all standards for advertising. They've taken 'native advertising' to such a level that there's essentially no difference between advertising and other content in your feed - as long as somebody you know hit a 'like' button there. Other stuff may be labeled "Sponsored Content", or "chosen for you" or some such thing.

      As regards political advertising, there's a reason for preventing anonymous political ads - and Facebook essentially invite

    • by whitroth ( 9367 )

      Yep, sure, it was only $100k paid in rubles. Yup, there weren't any others. And no one in the US was actually paid (money not in that Facebook revenue) to retweet, like, whatever.

      Nope, nothing here. By the way, if you want to make some real money, I've got this bridge for sale....

  • by El Cubano ( 631386 ) on Thursday October 19, 2017 @10:39PM (#55401413)

    There is definitely a need to balance free speech with anonymity. Placing political ads should should require some amount of disclosure. What will be interesting will be to see how the big tech companies, who tend to be pretty vocal supporters of lots of Democrat politicians, will react to this. It is easy to fight against something supported by your ideological opponents, but what about when it is the people who you just helped win elections?

    That said, two Democrats and John McCain hardly qualifies as "bipartisan." I'm just saying.

    • Placing political ads should should require some amount of disclosure.

      Why? Please explain why anonymous political speech should be criminalized.

      • He wants to know whose reputation he needs to ruin with false allegations.
      • He didn't call for anonymous political speech to be criminalized. He called for anonymous political paid advertising to be banned. There's a massive difference between the two.
        • He didn't call for anonymous political speech to be criminalized. He called for anonymous political paid advertising to be banned. There's a massive difference between the two.

          How dare you inject logic into a political argument!

        • He didn't call for anonymous political speech to be criminalized. He called for anonymous political paid advertising to be banned. There's a massive difference between the two.

          Paid advertising is speech. Banning something means there is a penalty for doing it based on a law that makes it a crime.

          Sounds like criminalizing political speech to me. Kind of like the laws that make it a crime for foreign parties to advertise in the US on behalf of candidates.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Thursday October 19, 2017 @10:59PM (#55401463)

    But this latest attempt has some bipartisan support: the act, sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) is also co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

    If it were bi-partisan, wouldn't it have some Republican support as well?

    • He is a republican. However the Republican Party is split by different groups.
      You are probably being pissy because of the Obamacare recall votes.
      However do you find it odd that they had just enough votes to fail it and by politicians who have enough political capital to weather the action.

      It is like Repealing Obamacare is a bad idea. But they don’t want to admit that they don’t have a better idea. Because it was based on the republican plan back in the 1990 s

    • The vast majority of Republicans considered McCain a Republican in 2008 when they tried to elect him President, and his views haven't changed before or after that. You can't really get more "Endorsed by a Party" than "Being our guy for President."

      • by bongey ( 974911 )
        McCain is a RINO that if you go back to POW era you will realize he should have been court martialed. He would say anything to save his own skin, would throw anyone under the bus or say something nice just for himself. He currently has a personal vendetta against Trump, and by all accords just an asshole.
      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        The vast majority of Republicans considered McCain a Republican in 2008 when they tried to elect him President

        Yeah they actually didn't. Rather most considered him a political insider, and there were huge pushes to stop him from winning the primary which the RNC pushed against hard. Gee, the establishment party turning around and trying to make sure that "their guy" won. Where have we seen that in the last 2 years? OH RIGHT it was with Hillary Clinton.

        You realize that the reason Trump won, and won so hard was because he wasn't RNC establishment, he wasn't political establishment either. The warning signs were t

  • by Carter Meyers ( 5086437 ) on Thursday October 19, 2017 @11:24PM (#55401537)
    Knowing the buyer of an advert doesn't matter if you can't get any info about the buyer's doners... basically, all this will do is move the needle to anonymous superpacs... "this ad is brought to you by [insert name of superpac]". We need legislation that let's us know who donates to these pacs to begin to understand their agendas... no anonymous donations - could Be out shortly argued as being akin to the "no mask" laws that already exist in several states.
    • Knowing the buyer of an advert doesn't matter if you can't get any info about the buyer's doners... basically, all this will do is move the needle to anonymous superpacs... "this ad is brought to you by [insert name of superpac]".

      Yes, but it is very effective against political speech by individuals, which is of course, the primary purpose of these bills: to make sure that only big, well-financed, well-organized political players can speak.

      We need legislation that let's us know who donates to these pacs to b

  • by somenickname ( 1270442 ) on Thursday October 19, 2017 @11:34PM (#55401563)

    You can't fight in here! This is the war room!

    -- From Dr. Strangelove

    • I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

      -- From Dr. Strangelove
  • Okay, then ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @12:59AM (#55401703)

    "Americans deserve to know who's paying for the online ads," Klobuchar said at a press conference announcing the legislation.

    ... how about also requiring all, and all types of, Political Action Committees (PACs) to disclose their donors and amounts donated (note that some, but not all types, of PACs are already required to do so). And, perhaps, prominently disclose when lobbyists and special-interest groups author or edit the legislation for you Senators and Representatives. And, how about more strictly enforcing the laws the prohibit the revolving-door appointments between industry and the departments regulating those industries -- like the new FCC Chairman Ajit V. Pai, who was previously Associate General Counsel at Verizon Communications.

    Americans deserve to know who's paying (off) our Representatives and deserve to have those representatives and the others running our government to work for the benefit of ALL the people as a whole and not just the rich and powerful. </rant>

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      last time they tried to do that conservatives got all pissy about the IRS trying to enforce the law as written and get groups to use the more appropriate 501(d) section of tax law rather than 501(c), and successfully forced the IRS to back down.

    • Americans deserve to know who's paying (off) our Representatives and deserve to have those representatives and the others running our government to work for the benefit of ALL the people as a whole and not just the rich and powerful.

      They are your representatives. They are supposed to represent you. If you don't know enough about them to need the federal government step in and attempt to force them to disclose this, they obviously aren't representing you and you probably shouldn't be voting for them in the f

    • So, free speech, if it's political, needs to be regulated and those exercising it to call for change need to be identifiable? Really?

      • So, free speech, if it's political, needs to be regulated and those exercising it to call for change need to be identifiable? Really?

        Free Speech != Anonymous Speech

  • by Arzaboa ( 2804779 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @01:21AM (#55401739)

    The ad's were to suck folks in. It was the barrage of interactive trolling that sealed the deal. Propaganda works.

    --
    "No Branch!" -- Poppi

    • by Xyrus ( 755017 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @08:15AM (#55402905) Journal

      There should be an asterisk next to that statement. Propaganda always works IF you know the population you are targeting.

      Russia knew EXACTLY who they were targeting. They knew the issues, the hot buttons, the ideologues. In fact, the world of global media made their job almost idiotically simple. Most Americans don't give a shit about what happens in the rest of the world, but the rest of the world certainly gets more than they care for of America via our never ending stream of media. No subterfuge or spying necessary. The Russians literally just watched our 24 hour news networks and built a targeted propaganda campaign from that.

      And of course, that never-ending stream of idiocy also primed the pump to the point where it was almost impossible for the Russian campaign to fail. People WANTED to believe. They turned off the critical thinking parts of their brain long ago, and would just vacuum up anything that agreed with their world view no matter how ludicrous or questionable the source might be. The Russian troll masters didn't even need to try. One comment and an entire forum would go up like a tinder box.

      Easiest intelligence operation ever.

  • by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @01:22AM (#55401741)

    and laughing and laughing and laughing............

  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @01:28AM (#55401749)
    So, if I spend $501 running ads that say things like, "Hey, internal combustion engines really aren't so bad. Firefighters need them!" or "Really, we need to be careful with our H1-B visa program" or "We need leaders that only want peace, non-GMO corn, and no guns" ... which politician or party just benefited from my spending? If I spend $501 on fancy printed signs and march around downtown proclaiming the same things, how is that different?
    • Those are "issues of national interest", and if you ran them on any other medium you would face some regulation. Basically just identifying yourself as the one paying for them. Which is what makes marching around with a sign different - you're already identifying yourself.
    • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

      So, if I spend $501 running ads that say things.... [offtopic digression]. If I spend $501 on fancy printed signs and march around downtown proclaiming the same things, how is that different?

      In the first, you're paying someone else to speak for you. In the second, you're the one speaking. That's different.

      When you're an anonymous individual speaking for yourself, you're still only an individual and you risk social consequences for what you are saying. When you're a plutocrat or a corporation paying hund

    • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

      Look it up [congress.gov]. Greatest information tool ever known at your fingertips, and you can't even be bothered to inform yourself. Yet you can manage to spin up a hypothetical that has been addressed ever since "dinosaur media" political advertising was similarly regulated.

      Hint: those aren't political ads, those are issue ads.

  • Good fucking luck. First amendment will give you a swift kick in the ass.

  • Facebook ads are a miniscule threat compared to astroturfing.

    If they don't regulate astroturfing, then they aren't serious.

  • The Russian thing was just the last drip in a full bucket to make it overflow. I am sure that lobbying has a tad more influence in our life.

  • Politicians know voters are dumb - after all, look at who they've elected! So they know that the voters are dumb enough to think that the elected politicians will do anything to change the system that elected them in any real way.
  • by emaname ( 1014225 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @06:35AM (#55402409)

    Any legislation called the "Honest Ads Act" is questionable. Just like "Citizens United" really should have been named "Citizens Divided."

    And why is this happening? I thought we had too much regulation.

  • Do they really think that the buyer of a malignant ad will be "V.Putin"? No, of course they will (as they do today) put them behind meaningless, disposable, untraceable front organizations. So that's pointless.

    And "who they're targeted against"? Aren't most political ad buys today "issue ads" where no candidate is named but a side is promoted?

    Finally, John McCain can hardly be called an element of bipartisan politics; he's been pissy since he felt pushed aside from "his turn" by Bush II, to say nothing o

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I guess if you write the law to so that the named sponsor has to be:

      1) The name of the organization if it is an officially registered organization
      2) The name of the largest individual contributor or registered group if it is an ad-hoc unregistered group

      This way it's much harder for a single organization or wealthy individual to hide behind front groups. They would be forced to either make the group official in some way or falsify the name of the largest individual contributor.

      It's too much overhead to regi

  • by doctorvo ( 5019381 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @07:02AM (#55402531)

    The companies would be required to keep and release data on anyone spending more than $500 on political ads in a year.

    This would basically mean the end of political speech for individuals, because anybody who publishes a controversial ad as an individual will be torn apart by "activists" from the opposing political party.

    It's also unlikely to survive legal scrutiny, since SCOTUS has repeatedly affirmed the right to anonymous free speech; this isn't the first time politicians have tried to restrict it after all.

  • I have an idea for an amendment to this bill. Every politician in the US takes an "oath of office" that contains a statement to the effect that they will "faithfully execute" the office. I believe it is fairly clear to most citizens that lying is certainly NOT "faithfully" executing the role of public office. When in court, a citizen must swear or affirm to tell the truth under penalty of perjury. Let's combine the two!
    Any citizen who submits to running for public office must agree to abide by the oath of o

    • by bongey ( 974911 )

      "Obama Intelligence reports"

      The same Obama administration that buried FBI investigation of Russian bribery through the Clinton Foundation for the Uranium deal.
      Obama was one of the most corrupt administrations in US history but Obama was the liberal media's "guy" they literally just cover up his corruption.

  • by ljw1004 ( 764174 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @08:03AM (#55402839)

    This bill wouldn't have had any effect at all on the ads in question.

    This bill is a straightforward extension of the existing Federal Election Campaign Act [wikipedia.org] so it also covers internet advertising. That's fine and is good. It says that any "qualified political advertisement" must be disclosed. A qualified political advertisement is defined as one which (1) refers to a clearly identified candidate for Federal office, (2) is targeted to the relevant electorate.

    The ads in question? They weren't qualified political advertisements. They weren't geared towards any one political candidate. They were general sowing of division and antipathy between groups. "Some of the ads supported Black Lives Matter and other groups bringing attention to the tense relationship between law enforcement and people of color. Yet other ads painted these activist organizations as a rising political threat." (article1 [washingtonpost.com]). "Some championed activist groups like Black Lives Matter, while others portrayed them as existential threats. Others aimed to split opinions through hot-button issues like Islam, LGBT rights, gun rights and immigration." -- (article2 [engadget.com]).

    So this bill is fine and good and just makes sense. But if there were indeed Russian ads as described in the past electoral cycle, then their propaganda is years ahead of our own legislators.

    PS. Here's the full text of the proposed "Honest Ads Act": https://coffman.house.gov/uplo... [house.gov]

    And here's the relevant federal law which it amends: https://www.law.cornell.edu/us... [cornell.edu]

  • It's interesting that much of the "fake news" circulating today is, at its core, designed to balkanize national populations, increase factional friction and reduce cohesiveness of organizations such as NATO and the EU. It's time to ask who would benefit most from such a move? "The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas." -- Carl Sagan
  • by cordovaCon83 ( 4977465 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @08:24AM (#55402967)
    If the idea is to identify Psy Ops performed by the Russkies then indeed this bill is missing the forest for the trees. Just think Pizzagate - no one in their right mind would consider that a political ad. Still, it played a part in discrediting the Democrats and the Clinton campaign. I still think it's a good bill though - online political ads should be treated no differently than tv ads. Just don't miss the forest for the trees..
  • The ONLY ads that would be REGULATED, would be those in opposition to the currently elected group. It's a "good ole boys" club, and, they PROTECT each other and don't want ANY outsiders to come in and muck it up.

[Crash programs] fail because they are based on the theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month. -- Wernher von Braun

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