Amid Russia case, Internet group seeks higher standards for political ads

Oct. 31 (UPI) — An Internet lobbying group made recommendations to U.S. lawmakers Tuesday on increasing standards for political advertising on platforms like Facebook and Twitter — an issue that’s at the heart of Congress’ Russia investigation this week.

The Internet Association, a lobbying trade organization representing over 40 web companies — including Facebook, Twitter and Google — released what it called a list of principles it hopes will guide U.S. legislation.

The group’s recommendations call for legislation to give the Federal Elections Commission authority “to regulate and enforce online advertising disclosure obligations.” It also asks for a uniform standard of disclosure regarding political advertising, instead of singling out only a few companies on the Internet who accept payment for political ads.

Facebook, Twitter and Google became part of Congress’ Russia investigation after it was revealed that about 80,000 posts, created by 120 Russia-linked pages, were part of Internet news feeds and advertisements during the 2016 presidential election.

The Senate intelligence committee and U.S. intelligence agencies have said Russian entities tried to sway the election.

Existing FEC rules specify that paid political ads on third-party websites must include the buyer’s name. The regulatory agency approved Google’s request for a waiver in in 2010, provided that the ads included a link to the sponsor’s site — but did not approve a similar Facebook request in 2011.

The group’s list also recommends clarification for rules of responsibility on advertising platforms, clearer responsibility on the part of advertisers and strengthening Congress’ existing authority to prevent foreign involvement in U.S. elections. It also encourages lawmakers to “balance transparency and individuals’ privacy,” suggesting that any legislation should avoid public identification of individuals who purchase advertising.

The Internet association’s list was released on the same day attorneys and security directors from Google, Facebook and Google were set to testify before congressional committees on the issue of Russian interference.

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House intelligence Committee will all hold hearings beginning Tuesday.

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