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Facebook’s Self-Regulation Isn’t Enough; FEC, FCC, SEC Must Protect Our Elections

Sept. 22, 2017

Facebook’s Self-Regulation Isn’t Enough; FEC, FCC, SEC Must Protect Our Elections

Statements From Public Citizen Experts

Note: Following revelations that Russian sources may have bought some 3,000 ads on Facebook intended to influence the 2016 elections – which would be an explicit violation of federal law – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a nine-point plan to avoid further foreign meddling in U.S. elections through his social media platform.

“Facebook’s new disclosure policies regarding political campaign ads are an important first step toward protecting our electoral process from foreign intervention, and the company’s cooperation will be essential to the congressional and special counsel investigations of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. At the same time, it is inappropriate for corporations to write and enforce their own rules where vital public interests are concerned. Facebook’s actions stem from failures at the Federal Election Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to do their jobs due to partisan gridlock and corporate capture. Public Citizen urges these agencies to move forward with new regulations to secure our elections immediately.”

– Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs, Public Citizen

“While the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has refused to address the problem of foreign meddling in U.S. elections by buying electioneering ads on social media, the private tech giant Facebook has finally said ‘enough’ and announced plans to fill the void. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg proposes to apply the high-quality standards of Internet transparency to campaign ads on Facebook, in which all pages must not only disclose the funding sources of paid advertisements but also make it possible for anyone to visit an advertiser’s page and view the ads they are currently running to any audience on Facebook. This type of transparency will make it much easier to detect and weed out improper Internet electioneering advertising, including ads sponsored by foreign sources. Facebook’s modern transparency plan is an excellent proposal that should set the standard for all social media. Unfortunately, this model is voluntary and being implemented by only one company. Perhaps the FEC or the U.S. Congress should pay attention and ensure transparency of electioneering ads on the Internet as a matter of law. Indeed, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) already are working on legislation to do just that.”

– Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division