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Google is backing legal proposals for increased political ad transparency

Tyrone Stewart

GoogleGoogle has called on US election regulators to consider putting in place tougher rules surrounding online political ads, going as far as to suggest it should give thought to banning foreign entities from purchasing ads on certain issues entirely.

In a letter to the Federal Election Commission, which was first obtained by Recode, Google said that it “strongly supports” stricter rules being placed in order to put a stop to Russia or any other nation having a role to play in future elections.

Currently, US law allows advertising about certain issues from abroad, if they disclose that this spending has been made. However, it is unlawful for them to attempt to directly interfere with elections through these ads.

Under new proposals from US lawmakers, internet companies would be forced to maintain a public file of the political ads that they run, similar to what broadcasters currently do.

“Now more than ever, we must work together to improve transparency, enhance disclosures and reduce foreign abuse and influence in US elections,” said Google in the letter, according to Reuters. “Google strongly supports the commission’s proposal to proceed with a rulemaking so that the commission can provide the clarity that campaigns and other political advertisers need to determine what disclaimers they are required to include.”

Of course, Facebook and Twitter have already taken the idea of increased transparency into their own hands and got ahead of any potential law being enforced.

Facebook is introducing a ‘View Ads’ button to Pages, enabling users to see all the ads that Page is running on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. In addition, the social network will now require political advertisers to confirm their identity before being allowed to run ads.

Meanwhile, Twitter is launching a transparency centre, which works similarly to Facebook’s Views Ads in enabling users to see who’s advertising on the platform and other details about the ads. Furthermore, the microblogging site now requires political ads to be clearly identified as such, and has introduced stricter requirements on who can serve political ads, limited targeting option, and put stronger penalties in place for violations.

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