Oct 10, 2017

Why ad disclosure rules don't apply to Google and Facebook

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Lawmakers and regulators are looking for ways to create transparency around political ads on Google and Facebook, in light of the revelations of Russian-bought political ads. But how did we get here in the first place? Google sought an exemption and Facebook sought a clarification from Federal Election Commission laws several years ago, and the FEC let both groups follow different disclosure regulations from those used on other platforms, like TV and radio.

Why it matters: It will be hard for the FEC, usually divided equally among party lines, to come to a consensus around regulating political ads online, according to sources within the FEC — meaning that any major disclosure efforts would have to come from Congress.

What's next: Members of Congress are expected to introduce a new bill about political ad disclosures in a few weeks after the Senate and House recesses.

The back story:

  • Five years ago, Facebook asked the Federal Election Commission for clarification about the rules requiring the disclaimers. Facebook argued that display ads on its platform should be regulated the same way certain political materials are regulated, like pencils and buttons. The FEC couldn't come to a majority decision, and so Facebook political ads today still don't require the same disclaimers as TV ads. Even if they did, they would be nearly impossible to regulate given Facebook's scale.
  • Six years ago, the FEC ruled in favor of Google when it sought an exception for political ads on its platform, again arguing that such ads were character-limited and they couldn't alter the format for political advertisers. "Text ads have a headline which can consist of up to 25 characters, and two lines of text and a display URL which can consist of up to 70 characters," the filing reads. "This format applies to all advertisers, regardless of whether they are political committees."

Go deeper

In photos: Authorities issue warning as Americans venture out for Memorial Day weekend

Venice Beach in Los Angeles on May 24. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Authorities urged Americans to maintain social distancing and wear masks against the coronavirus amid reports of packed beaches and bars during the Memorial Day weekend.

Driving the news: Law enforcement stepped up beach patrols, authorities on Florida's Gulf Coast closed parking lots because they were full and there were crowded scenes at Lake of the Ozarks bars in Missouri, per AP, which reports a shooting injured several people at a packed Daytona Beach in Florida.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 5,405,029 — Total deaths: 344,997 — Total recoveries — 2,168,408Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 1,642,021 — Total deaths: 97,698 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,195Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Republicans sue California over mail-out ballot plan

California Gov. Gavin Newsom during a February news conference in Sacramento, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President Trump accused Democrats of trying "Rig" November's general election as Republican groups filed a lawsuit against California Sunday in an attempt to stop Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) from mailing ballots to all registered voters.

Driving the news: Newsom signed an executive order this month in response to the coronavirus pandemic ensuring that all registered voters in the state receive a mail-in ballot.