There’s a crop of experts in Washington, DC with decades of experience in running campaigns and writing legislation, who are trying to keep America’s elections free and fair. They can be found at Democracy 21, founded by veteran campaign-finance lawyer Fred Wertheimer; at the government transparency group Sunlight Foundation; at Issue One, which aims to keep outside groups from hijacking elections; in the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign donations; and the at the Campaign Legal Center, which hopes to give regular Americans more of a voice in elections. Outside the capital, New York University’s Brennan Center looks at voting rights and elections. As Facebook grapples with how Russia may have used its platform to influence the US election, however, it hasn’t reached out to a single one of these organizations, representatives from the groups told Quartz this week. A Facebook spokesman said he had no more information to offer than was already public on the situation.
Facebook said on Sept. 6 that it had uncovered $100,000 worth of political advertisements that violated its policies and were bought by accounts linked to a Russian troll farm. On Sept. 21, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a series of planned changes to make sure “the company is a force for good in democracy.” The proposals come as some members of Congress are pushing for more regulation.
However, in developing these plans, Facebook seems to be relying entirely on its own in-house talent. And that, campaign-finance experts believe, is a mistake.
“I know they have very smart and capable lawyers,” Ann Ravel, a former commissioner on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and a long-time advocate for more disclosure of political ad funding, said in an emailed response to questions. “But many issues relating to the FEC and campaign finance laws are nuanced and complicated, as it’s a specialized area.” Even if Facebook figures out how to comply with campaign finance laws and any new rules, it may be “insufficient to mitigate the negative impacts” the company is having on the democratic process.