Call Of The Day: Safeguard Our Elections with Mandated Online Political Ad Disclosure

Update (05/24): Twitter announced that they will now require political advertisers to verify identity, location and who is paying for the ad.  Facebook also announced it will expand its advertising disclosure requirements to include ads for politically divisive issues, even if they do not endorse a candidate.  Even though these are big steps forward, not all platforms (such as Google) are doing the same.  The Honest Ads Act is needed to bring transparency to all online advertisers.

Last fall, we learned that Russian operatives spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on political ads across Facebook, Twitter and Google to influence the outcome of the 2016 US elections.  Because online political advertising is not currently covered by political ad disclosure regulations (unlike television, print, and radio advertising), these ads went undetected for over a year.  Campaign advertising requirements have not been substantively updated since the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, when Internet advertising was still in its early days.  Consequently, the millions of American voters who were targeted by Russian political operatives were unaware of who was behind the political advertisements they were seeing, how they were being targeted, or the scope of Russian advertising influence on the electorate.

Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Warner (D-VA) and John McCain (R-AZ) introduced the bipartisan Honest Ads Act to update standards for political advertising and reduce the potential for foreign interference in future elections.  The bill would mandate that all online ads include a disclosure statement identifying the ad as a political one.  The bill would also require that platforms running online political ads build and maintain public databases of these ads.  The databases would include images of ads as well as information about the buyer, linked organizations, cost, and targeting.  Furthermore, online platforms would be required to make “all reasonable efforts” to ensure political ads are not being purchased by foreign citizens or governments, just as radio and television broadcasters must already do.  The new rules would apply to online platforms with more than 50 million active users, organizations buying political ads with a total value of over $500, and ads for both specific candidates and for legislative issues of national importance.

The Honest Ads Act is not a sufficient standalone response to Russia's election interference in 2016, but it is a reasonable and necessary first step in safeguarding our democracy, informing our electorate, and ensuring campaign disclosure rules reflect the rapidly changing landscape of advertising and online media.

Three calls to make:  Senators Kennedy and Cassidy, and Representative Richmond or Scalise

Senator Bill Cassidy: DC Office: 202-224-5824; Metairie office: 504-838-0130; Monroe: 318-324-2111; Lake Charles 337-493-5398; Alexandria: 318-448-7176
 
Senator John Kennedy: DC office: 202-224-4623; New Orleans: 504-581-6190; Lafayette: (337) 269-5980; Monroe: (318) 361-1489; Alexandria: (318) 445-2892; Baton Rouge: (225) 926-8033; Shreveport: (318) 670-5192

Because of how Congressional districts are drawn, New Orleans residents have either Richmond or Scalise as their representative.  If you don't know who your representative is, you can look it up by entering your home address on the U.S. House of Representatives website.

Representative Cedric Richmond - in DC at (202) 225-6636, and in New Orleans at (504) 288-3777
OR
Representative Steve Scalise - in DC at (202) 225-3015, and in Metairie at (504) 837-1259

SAMPLE SCRIPT:

Hi, my name is [NAME] and I'm a constituent from New Orleans.

I’m calling to ask the [Representative to support the Honest Ads Act - H.R. 4077]/[Senator to support the Honest Ads Act - S. 1989 if Senate].  Holding online political ads to the same standard as ads published through other media is a critical first step in safeguarding our democracy and preventing foreign interference in elections.

Thank you so much for your time.

[IF LEAVING VOICEMAIL: please leave your full street address to ensure your call is tallied]

This call is adapted from 5Calls.org, which can be viewed here.