US Senators Seek to Block Foreign Online Ads Targeting American Voters

New media With world domination comes responsibility

The first major legislative effort to rein in foreign interference in U.S. elections will kick off Thursday afternoon on Capitol Hill, where Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar will field questions from reporters over a new bill crafted, they said, to "improve transparency of online political ads". The legislation also has support from Republican Sen.

The senators said this was a first step, light touch action, targeted specifically towards purchasers of online political ads and wouldn't put restrictions on individuals' abilities to express themselves through, Klobuchar said, "cat videos.or cat videos about Donald Trump". Even as they skewered Facebook for being "dismissive" early on and Twitter for essentially copying Facebook's homework in its report to Congress a few weeks ago, the lawmakers appeared hopeful that cooperation would only improve as the depth of Russian election interference becomes more widely understood.

It remains unclear how exactly the bill will account for the unique challenges of regulating online ads, versus those broadcast over public airwaves.

"We need regulatory rules, a framework, that shields our elections from foreign money", Klobuchar said. Other platforms, such as Twitter, have also come under increased scrutiny recently for Kremlin-linked activity on their sites during the election.

Last month, after USA regulators and criminal investigators began looking at the Russia-linked ads, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said his company would take several voluntary steps to make political ads more transparent, such as allowing anyone to seem them no matter whom they target. Warner is the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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The bill would require digital platforms with at least 50 million viewers monthly to maintain a public file of all political ads purchased above a $500 threshold.

"Ensuring transparency and accountability remain encoded into our democracy in the 21st century has taken on new importance and relevance in the wake of the 2016 election", said Alexander B. Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, which has been a loud voice for campaign reforms, including heightened disclosures for political ads. A Google spokeswoman said on Thursday there was no update from the company.

Representatives of Google, Facebook, and Twitter are expected to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee next month. It's already received support from Republican Senator John McCain. Warner and Klobuchar are still trying to woo additional Senate and House Republicans, who have spent much of the year rolling back federal regulations they see as burdensome.

"We stand with lawmakers in their effort to achieve transparency in political advertising". The account was identified by the RBC news outlet as one controlled by the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm reportedly funded through a company run by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, a confidant of President Vladimir Putin. The bipartisan bill will, should it pass, require all digital platforms to federally disclose who buys political ads on each platform's website or app, the goal being to avoid further foreign meddling in United States elections and fueling the flames around issues like racial tensions.

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