- Federal Election Commission vice chair Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, has drafted a proposal that would require Facebook, Google and other online platforms to add disclaimers to their political advertisements identifying their sponsors in the same manner that's required for print, radio and television ads, Bloomberg reported. The proposed framework will be considered at the FEC's next public hearing on March 8.
- Congress has been investigating how Russia used social media to influence the 2016 election, and both the House and Senate have introduced bipartisan legislation requiring Facebook, Google and others to disclose information about political ads' sponsors, such as how much they're spending and what audiences are being targeted.
- In separate news reported by Business Insider, Rob Goldman, VP of ads at Facebook, faced considerable flak late last week after he tweeted that the media were misrepresenting how Russian trolls used the platform, saying that most of the ads were purchased after the election. His comments followed special counsel Robert Muller indicting 13 Russians for interfering with the 2016 election. President Donald Trump used Goldman's tweets to discredit the media as "fake news."
Stepping beyond politics, the main takeaway for marketers from the news is that the digital media space, which to date been more open, flexible and self-regulating than traditional channels, faces increased government oversight as major platforms like Google and Facebook repeatedly demonstrate that they are either not adept or unwilling to institute appropriate and transparent policies. The two companies control the vast share of the digital advertising market, meaning the consequences of any new changes or regulations could be far-reaching and impact brands that aren't necessarily involved in politics. Goldman's comments also reinforce how many executives and leaders at these tech giants can be tone deaf to the influence they wield over businesses, the media and the general court of public opinion.
Higher watchfulness from the FEC comes despite internal efforts to increase transparency with users. Last year, Facebook announced that it would allow people to see any ads run by any organization across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger by clicking a "View Ads" button on an organization's page. At the time, it also unveiled plans to build a searchable ad archive related to federal elections that would include the amount of money spent on campaigns, their number of impressions and the demographics the ads reached. Political advertisers additionally would have to verify their IDs and location and that their ad is election related, and the ads will be labeled "paid for by."
Google has also placed tougher requirements on YouTube channels to ensure that they are safe and, therefore, eligible for ads. The company is also manually reviewing premium YouTube videos that it packages for advertisers to ensure that ads are not placed next to inappropriate or offensive content.