In 2011, Facebook asked the Federal Election Commission to exempt it from rules requiring political advertisers to disclose who’s paying for an ad. Political ads on TV and radio must include such disclosures. But Facebook argued that its ads should be regulated as “small items,” similar to bumper stickers, which don’t require disclosures. The FEC ended up deadlocked on the issue, and the question of how to handle digital ads has languished for six years. Now, it’s blowing up again—and damaging Facebook in the process. The renewed interest follows Facebook’s disclosure earlier this month that it had sold $150,000 worth of political ads linked to Russian troll accounts during the 2016 election. Under pressure from investigators, Facebook has turned over records about the ads to Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller III. Some in Congress want to summon Facebook executives to testify about the purchases. On Thursday, Facebook tried to defuse the controversy. CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced new transparency measures that would require political advertisers on Facebook to disclose who’s paying for their ads and publicly catalog different ad variations they target at Facebook users. Members of Congress, meanwhile, are mulling a bill that would require such disclosures.
These would be unprecedented moves, setting new standards for digital political ads. But they likely wouldn’t prevent abuses, largely because of the US’s confusing, loophole-ridden system for regulating political advertising.
Case in point: Shortly before the 2016 election, the crowdfunding site, WeSearchr, run by the notorious far-right internet troll Chuck Johnson, raised just over $5,000 to put up a billboard in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. The illustration for the billboard showed a sparkling new yellow-brick wall, marked with a sign reading “U.S. Border.” It was guarded at night by two Pepe frogs dressed as Donald Trump, pointing their guns at anyone who attempts to cross their path. The caption, which appeared next to a smiling crescent moon wearing sunglasses, read ominously, “It’s always darkest before the Don…”
Full Article: Why Facebook Will Struggle to Regulate Political Ads | WIRED.