In the wake of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential race, Maryland is close to enacting a law that some experts say would set a new standard for how states deal with foreign interference in local elections and increase overall transparency in online political ads. If signed by Gov. Larry Hogan, the law would require online platforms to create a database identifying the purchasers of online ads in state and local elections and how much they spend. The measure would effectively extend disclosure rules that apply to paid political ads for radio, television and print to social media.
The measure is similar in some respects to one introduced in Congress that would require digital platforms with at least 50 million monthly visitors to maintain a public file of advertisers who spend more than $500 in ads on the platform. But Maryland’s measure — crafted to catch ads displayed in smaller state and local elections — would apply to digital platforms with 100,000 unique monthly visitors. Maryland does not have a monetary threshold, though the law would only apply to platforms that reach more than 500 people.
Under the Maryland measure, information about the ads would have to be made public within 48 hours by the entity that was paid for the ad. Online platforms also would need to retain digital copies of the ads.