Social media platforms are avenues for typical Americans—those without enough money to purchase expensive television or radio ads—to make their voices part of the national political dialogue. But with news that a Russian company with ties to the Kremlin maintained hundreds of Twitter accounts and purchased $100,000 worth of Facebook ads aimed at influencing American voters—and specifically targeting voters in swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan—these same social media companies are now at the center of a widening government investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. This controversy has also sparked renewed calls for more government regulation of political ads on social media and other online platforms—including creating news rules for Internet ads that would mirror those the FEC and FCC currently apply to political ads on TV, cable, and radio. In the past, policymakers proposed essentially extending the broadcast rules to the Internet without adequately and thoughtfully considering the differences between the broadcast and online worlds. As a result, we argued for limiting the burden on online speakers from campaign finance regulations in both 2006 and 2014.
We can’t emphasize enough what’s at stake here. Social media and digital communications have an enormous role in elections. On the whole, this is a good thing, because it creates many new avenues for Americans to communicate, share, participate, debate, and organize. Online speech rules must maintain our ability to speak out—anonymously if we choose—about candidates, elections, and issues. At the same time, American elections should be decided by Americans and not subject to foreign influence. The rules that surround our elections should be carefully created to protect American voters and not just at the moment of voting. Our right to participate and voice our opinions must not be compromised on the way to preventing foreign intervention in our elections.
We’re still in the early stages of this latest round of policymaking. Before moving forward, regulators and lawmakers and the public need to consider the risks of applying election rules designed for broadcast to the Internet—along with the following basic and long-standing principles: enforce existing laws first, make sure that any applicable laws are tailored to the difference in size and resources of various speakers and platforms, and protect Americans’ right to participate in the public debate, including anonymously. EFF will evaluate any proposals to make sure they adhere to the following long-standing principles.
Full Article: With Facebook, Twitter in the Crosshairs of Investigators Probing Russian Interference, Let’s Consider The Risks of Applying Election Ad Rules to the Online World | Electronic Frontier Foundation.